Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Sakutaro Hagiwara: Unknown Dog



This utterly unknown dog follows me,
shabby, limping on its hind leg, a crippled dog’s shadow.
Ah, I do not know where I’m going,
in the direction of the road that I go,
roofs of tenements are being pelted in the wind,
in a gloomy, empty lot by the road,
bone-dry grass leaves are pliantly thinly moving.

Ah, I do not know where I’m going,
a large, organism-like moon is vaguely afloat ahead of me,
and in the lonely street behind me,
the tip of the dog’s thin long tail is dragging on the ground.

Ah, no matter how far, how far I go,
this utterly unknown dog follows me,
crawling along the filthy ground,
behind me, dragging its hind leg, a sick dog,
distant, long, sadly terrified,
at the lonely moon, howling afar and pale,
an unhappy dog's shadow.


Sakutaro Hagiwara (1886-1942; Hagiwara is the family name) broke a lot of ground for free verse in Japanese poetry and happily sometimes survives translation without looking too battered. Cats were a constant motif - two of his collections were Blue Cat and Cat Town. But I can't find good translations of a cat poem. This memorable piece was translated by Hiroaki Sato.