Day 16

Day 16 – Total confirmed cases in US: 164,719

I know I’m not the only one who finds it hard to read a book these days. It’s hard to concentrate on literature, even though the distraction of getting lost in an imaginary world sounds incredibly sweet right now.


Someone I know suggested reading poetry as an alternative and I have found it easier to get lost in poetry than prose. I have been intermittently transfixed for more than a year by The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse. This chronicle of the evolution of Japanese poetry from the 1st Century to the 20th is breathtaking. Although I have enjoyed it all, now that I am getting to the end I find that the postwar poetry resonates deepest for me.

Noriko Ibaragi was a poet, a playwright, a writer of children’s books, and founder of the poetry journal Oars. This tender and thoughtful piece of hers is titled The Fruit:

On a high branch
A big green fruit
A local lad slid up
Stretched his hand and fell back
What looked like fruit
Was a moss-covered skull

Twenty-six years on
On a baby jungle tree branch
Caught by chance
The skull of a Japanese soldier killed in battle
Eye socket nostril
In the sturdy young tree
Grown vigorously.

In his lifetime
This face
Irreplaceable cherished
Surely some woman must have cared for it.

The fontanelles of the tiny temples
Who was the mother who had doted on them
Twining her fingers in his hair?
Who was the woman who had drawn him tenderly to her?
If it had been me…

I broke off a year has passed
I took out the draft again
Unable to find a final line
More years have gone by.

If it had been me
In the end unable to produce a line to follow

Noriko Ibaraki

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