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Rena Fukazawa


Translated by Owen Bullock

A free translation of Rena Fukazawa’s poem as

How does Maman sit in the boat?

Sampans at Japanese Formosa by I. Suzuki


Hefted her by the neck, chucked her in the boat – she hardly moved except her head bouncing the bulwark. We shrank too small. And never stopped, shrank to a medicine finger. Thought with the body, on the galley floor, stepping on each other in the boat, the empty object – we would live there. Maman seemed surprisingly at ease. The floor withered, too – Maman tucked her knees up (not cross-legged), she was trained, her face impassive, smooth as never. I tried not to rock her doldrum. I found the lid, sliding it over the empty object, and her clothes – I heard it shut over my head.


I submitted the paperwork to the port authorities on her behalf, scrubbed the trunk and worked the air filter, burnt the lemon tart but however long we stayed in there she didn’t seem to feel cornered. Cleaned her miniature room. Asked for her all the time when she was away; it’s over three years since she came home. One night I heard a swelling sound claw at the boat, like thousands of frogs from a mile away. Beetles flooded us. I took down the fire axe and attacked the doors, smashed up the walls and levelled the vessel to a frothing hull, surrounded myself with the noise of beetle backs breaking, wings ripping off . . . I was sure I heard all this, but when I looked up I couldn’t see them. Something behind my head. I reached and grabbed. Opened my fist and there she was, a single beetle frowning up at me, twitching her tentacles. The sweet smell of an empty object floated towards me – I turned my feelers that way.


About the writer:
Rena Fukazawa is a Japanese poet, social activist, and vegan.

About the translator:
Owen Bullock has published three collections of poetry, Work & Play (2017), Semi (2017), Sometimes the Sky Isn’t Big Enough (2010); five books of haiku, Summer Haiku (2019), River’s Edge (2016), Urban Haiku (2015), Breakfast with Epiphanies (2012), Wild Camomile (2009); a bilingual collection of tanka, Uma rocha enorme que anda à roda (‘A big rock that turns around’), translated into Portuguese by Francisco Carvalho (Temas Originais, 2021); the novella, A Cornish Story (2010), and several chapbooks of poetry, haiku and haibun. A new collection, Pancakes for Neptune, is due for release shortly. He is Discipline Lead for Creative Writing and Literary Studies at the University of Canberra. His other interests include chess, juggling and music.

Image: Sampans at Japanese Formosa by I. Suzuki (?-1945?). Oil on canvas. No size specified. Between 1895 and 1945. Public domain.

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