When I Was Prettiest in My Life


When I was prettiest in my life,
the cities crumbled down,
and the blue sky appeared
in the most unexpected places.

When I was prettiest in my life,
a lot of people around me were killed,
in factories, in the sea, and on nameless islands.
I lost the chance to dress up like a girl should.

When I was prettiest in my life,
no men offered me thoughtful gifts.
They only knew how to salute in the military fashion.
They all went off to the front, leaving their beautiful eyes behind.

When I was prettiest in my life,
my country lost in a war.
"How can it be true?" I asked,
striding, with my sleeves rolled up, through the prideless town.

When I was prettiest in my life,
jazz music streamed from the radio.
Feeling dizzy, as if I'd broken a resolve to quit smoking,
I devoured the sweet music of a foreign land.

When I was prettiest in my life,
I was most unhappy,
I was most absurd,
I was helplessly lonely.

Therefore I decided to live a long time, if I could,
like old Rouault of France,
who painted magnificent pictures in his old age.


     Japanese; trans. Naoshi Koriyama & Edward Lueders


Ibaragi Noriko, Japanese, trans. Naoshi Koriyama & Edward Lueders, Like Underground Water: The Poetry of Mid-Twentieth Century Japan, Copper Canyon Press, 1995.