With Twisted Hands
With twisted hands I take this water
It spills and spills violent
In my hands in incessant flood living water
These fingers are twisted
but I have no disability in lifting them to heaven
こぼれても こぼれても みたされる水の
いつも なみなみと 生命の水は手の中にある
Shiki Itsuma (1917-1959) developed leprosy at 13, when there was still widespread discrimination and little treatment. He was published during his lifetime, but became widely known and read after his death. Shiki was a significant influence in changing the public perception of ‘leprosy literature’, which became its own genre in Japan.
John Newton Webb’s poems and translations are widely published, most recently in The High Window, Asymptote, The Massachusetts Review and Modern Poetry in Translation. You can read some of his work and mini-essays on modern Japanese poetry at johnnewtonwebb.blogspot.com. He lives in Sapporo, Japan.