Oriori no Uta : Poems for All Seasons

Woken from winter sleep,

the frogs ascend

the last thin layer

of snow and

spread their bodies flat

Saitō Mokichi

From Shirokiyama (White Mountains, 1949), A tanka poet who was born in Yamagata Prefecture in 1882 and died in 1953. Mokichi was evacuated from Tokyo to his original home in the closing days of World War II, and stayed on after the war’s end, moving in early spring of the next year to the Ōishida region near the Mogami River. There he lived alone for over a year. This poem dates from early spring of 1947, when Mokichi was in the habit of taking his lunch and walking about near the Mogami River. The precision of the last line, “spred their bodies flat,” pulls the whole poem together and at the same time opens it up. The masterty og craft is absolute.

冬眠Tōminよりyori
醒めしsameshikaeruga
残雪zansetsuno
うへueniのぼりてnoborite
karadawo平ぶhirabu

斎藤茂吉(さいとう もきち)

『白き山』(昭二四)所収。明治十五年山形県生まれ、昭和二十八年没の歌人。第二次世界大戦末期東京から故郷へ疎開した茂吉は、敗戦翌年の早春、最上川べりにある大石田の地に移り、なお一年余りの疎開独居生活を続けた。これは昭和二十二年早春の歌。彼は握り飯を下げて最上川のほとりを歩き回るのを日常としていた。結句の「体を平ぶ」という的確な表現が、歌全体を引き締めると同時に開放している。腕の冴えに一部の隙もない。