Is It October?

Open House: Riverside Fujimi Town #103,
two rooms with wooden flooring
and a small finished basement.
A ninety-eight-square-foot basement
with no windows,
no circulation.
I’m not buying; I’m going
for that windowless basement.

It’s well past the last train,
I walk the last two stations myself,
along the river, light spills from streetlamps
spattering the pavement.
Before I know it, it’s raining.
Before I know it, it quits.

I slip past the Keio Bus Company’s garage that smells like exhaust,
its bright Help Wanted sign
seeking people for client-facing roles.
Open House
Saturdays, Sundays
until 6 PM
but it’s Tuesday,
also midnight,
which is why I can go—
the door should be locked.

I’m alienated by people.
I can feel their contempt.
But that’s OK.
In an underground room with no air, no light,
insults don’t bother me.

Pitter patter rain that had stopped
starts falling, pitter patter.
Three discarded umbrellas
hang by their necks
from an elementary school’s chain-link fence.
I reach my arm out, think about taking one,
change my mind, draw it back again.
A woman has the right to get wet walking in the rain.

Riverside Fujimi Town #103
Shutters closed.
Available for Immediate Occupancy 
Newly Remodeled Interiors
Newer Building (5 Years)

Of course no one replies
when I try the intercom.
The person who lived there before must have dived down
into the underground room below the basement,
asleep, hands over her ears.

Translation from the Japanese

Toshiko Hirata (b. 1955) is a Japanese poet, playwright, and novelist associated with the “women’s boom” in contemporary literature. These poems are from her collection Shinanoka (Shichōsha, 2004), which we are calling, in English, “Is It Poetry?” This book earned Hirata the Hagiwara Sakutarō Prize for poetry. 

Eric E. Hyett’s poetry most recently appeared in the Worcester ReviewCincinnati ReviewBarrow Street, the Hudson Review, and Harvard Review Online. He is co-translator of Sonic Peace, by Kiriu Minashita, which was shortlisted for the American Literary Translators Association’s 2018 National Translation Award.

Spencer Thurlow is the current Poet Laureate of West Tisbury, Massachusetts. His poetry or translations have appeared in Modern Poetry in TranslationWorld Literature TodayCincinnati ReviewComstock ReviewWorcester Review, and others. He is co-translator of Sonic Peace, by Kiriu Minashita.