Pebbles of Poetry (Excerpt)

01

The earthquake hit. I went to the emergency evacuation area, but things calmed down, so I returned to go to work. Thanks everyone for worrying about me. Your words of encouragement are greatly appreciated.

Today is the sixth day since the disaster. My ways of looking at and thinking about things have changed.

Everywhere I end up, there is nothing but tears. I want to write about this, writing with all the power of an Asura.

Radiation is falling. It is a quiet night.

What meaning could there be in harming us to this extent?

The meaning of all things is probably determined after the fact. If so, then what is the meaning of that period “after the fact”? Is there any meaning there at all?

What is this earthquake trying to teach us? If there is nothing it is trying to teach us, then what can we possibly have left to believe?

Radition is falling. It is a quiet, quiet night.

I was told that when I came back in from outside, I should wash my hair, hands, and face. We don’t have any water to wash ourselves.

I hear that no supplies have reached Minami Soma, the city where I used to live. They say that’s because no one wants to go into the city. Please save Minami Soma.

What does your homeland represent to you? I will not abandon my homeland. My homeland is everything to me.

They say the radioactivity isn’t enough to immediately cause abnormalities in our health. If we turn the word “immediately” around, does it become “eventually”? I am worried about my family’s health.

Maybe so. There are clear limits to things and to meaning. Perhaps that is what draws us away from meaning.

The day before yesterday, the corpses of a thousand people were washed onto the shores of Minami Sanriku, the same place that I used to like to go to from time to time to get away from the heat.

If we are to search for meaning in all of this, it is probably not meaning we would find but, rather, something close to the darkness of non-meaning—that temporary stillness lodged inside whenever we look directly at things, head on.

As I was writing this just now, the earth rumbled again. Everything shook. I held my breath, got on my knees, and watched the trembling until it was over. I am betting with my life. In the rain of radiation, I am all alone.

Is there someone who is important to you? There are situations when you might lose them in an instant… If you just think about that for a minute, you realize the only thing you can do is to risk your whole being so the world does not rip them away.

The world continues to exist so easily between the extremes of birth and destruction, supported by the will of the universe, which pulls back from meaning.

The high-school gymnasium I loved so much has become a place to put all of the unidentified bodies. The neighboring high school building too.

The earth rumbled again. This time, there was a lot of shaking. I rush down the stairs in bare feet, trying to get outside. That was near the place with the unidentified bodies I wrote about in my last post. But even if I rushed outside, the radiation would still be raining down.

“Don’t like what I have to say, eh? Well, you’re in for a world of hurt now.”

The myth of absolute safety was not so absolute after all. Okuma, Hirano, Namie, Odaka, Haramachi. Fields, towns, sea. From Highway 6, I could see the light of the reactors at night.

I asked my parents to evacuate, but they said they didn’t want to leave home. They said, “You go on your own.” I choose my parents.

My family evacuated before me. There was a call from my child. As a father, aren’t I the one who is supposed to make the decisions?

Yes, I am angry. I am really angry.

For what reason is life born into this world, and why does it leave, moving into death? What right does birth and death have to exist? Do they come from destruction and rebirth?

Missing people become missing only once a “missing person’s report” is filed. If no report is filed, is a missing person who hasn’t yet become a missing person not really missing?

I was in line for three hours at the supermarket. They’d no sooner put something out then everyone would be struggling to get it. An old lady was crouched down, looking none too energetic. She told me she was dizzy as a result of diabetes. I got some nori rolls, some white rice, and some yogurt from the shelf for her.

I asked the old lady. “Shall I call your family?” She told me, “I live alone.” “Shall I take you home?” “I live nearby.”

At 5 am the next morning, I got in line to get some water. The line was already snaking around. About an hour later, a mixture of snow and rain began to fall. A boy smiled and told his father, “You woke up even before did, didn’t you Daddy?” Looking at his cute face, I wondered about the old lady, whether she was alright for water.

Six days since the quake. I want to drink good coffee. I haven’t had any. No prospect of having any either.

The people continue to evacuate. I was in the emergency evacuation shelter so I know firsthand, it is not easy there either. Let’s all hang in there together.

At the emergency evacuation shelter, a young man in his twenties looked at the screen and wept, “Don’t abandon the city of Minami Soma.” What expression does your hometown wear? Our hometown wears a twisted face, covered in tears.

More shaking. A very big quake. The big aftershocks they have been predicting all alone may be on us soon. I ran to the bottom of the stairs, and as everything shook, I hesitated, worried about whether or not I should open the door. Outside, radioactivity rains down.

The gasoline is already gone. Will our water be gone? Will the food be gone? Will our hearts be gone? I am the only one in the apartment.

A rather long quake, shaking side to side. Shall I bet? Will you win or will I? “This time I’m about done, but next time, you’re in for a world of hurt.”

I believe it is our greatest wish for happiness just to be able to live the same way that we did up before all this.

I went out and received a bunch of onions. A whole box full. A middle-aged man in the neighborhood gave me some of what he had raised. But I don’t like onions. I put the box down just inside my door and have been staring at it for ages. Until just a short time ago, I had my everyday life…

Midnight. Six days since the quake. I wasn’t telling the truth before. We haven’t reached six yet. Right now, we are entering the fifth day. I want to settle this once and for all.

The kitchen. I cleaned up the broken plates. As I put them in a box one by one, I felt miserable. For myself, for the kitchen, for the world.

There is no night without a dawn.

March 16, 2011

Translated by Jeffrey Angles