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曲がった手 by Shiki Itsuma translated into English by John Newton Webb

With Twisted Hands

With twisted hands I take this water

It spills and spills violent

saturating water

In my hands in incessant flood living water

These fingers are twisted

but I have no disability in lifting them to heaven


曲がった手で 水をすくう

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 He lives in Sapporo, Japan.


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