Oriori no Uta : Poems for All Seasons

The ocean is stripped

of all joy and deep below

the octopus and

its kin, tentacles tightly

closed, will be frozen foever

Nakajō Fumiko

From Chibusa Sōshitsu (The loss of My Breasts), 1954. What tremendous solitude this poem expresses. The author had to have both breasts removed due to cancer, and departure this workd at the age of 31, her brilliant promise only partly fulfilled. The ocean “stripped of all joy” must be her young body and the soul itself. The many-armed octopuses, their tentacles wrapped up tightly, creatures barely alive and frozen stiff at the bottom of the ocean, make a very powerful, evocative image.

よろこびのyorokobi no失わはれたる海ふかくushinawaretaru umi fukaku足閉ぢて章魚の類は凍らむashi tojite tako no rui wa kōramu

中城ふみ子(Nakajō Fumiko)