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Alan Botsford

Alan Botsford

Alan Botsford is an American living more than twenty years in Japan. He is author of several books, including Walt Whitman of Cosmic Folklore, and is editor of Poetry Kanto.

Translating Myself

A writer's biography is in his twists of language.
—Joseph Brodsky
If Asian-Americans why not American-Asians?—our dumbstruck into being is the only way to describe it. Having made a change of scenery our life, we've been like one secretly hoping for an invitation to the big dance ever since. But to be taking lessons from the cosmos, in pain and in joy, is to learn how to walk the dizzying edge between two worlds—how, for instance, to enter a house shoeless like a ghost; how, whenever you read, to read from finish to start; how to eat words—still wriggling and writhing in your mouth—raw, and with a nod of your head to look for the next sentence to be complete; and how in others you meet, you bow to the newness you meet in yourself...


Now, under pressure from lip service, it's time you offered leeway to join forces on this trail of lost loot, and our money's on... (an idea on hold) ...finding patterns by the numbers, perhaps? or more likely by going deep within, past perpetual ambiguity and bewilderment, to tantalizingly momentary certainty.


This quest for simplicity (virtually anything but) faces an identity hurdle. You're scrambling on board the historical record—ephemeral, yes—for fear of making excuses obsolete...


It's the life and times of your words, anyhow—you are put under their taxing to be spread like a cornucopia of big gains, taken with a grain of salt! These quicker connections show a bit of mercy, togetherness, attitude and flair, all pulling inward. But what should we make of this?—wary of change, move baffles analysts, but the growth habit is catching on—


'Let's have revolutions that let people talk' looks to have less say, for the celebration it once was. You're looking past the rewards on arrival, the hard work getting home can be, and look to an opening for 'Made in Japan,' for reflections on a tranquil back street...


Sure, you would have woken up to reality's challenge long ago if only you'd had (the way everyone seems to) a precise knowledge of the past. Now you're waiting for the future to move on, to where speech is the flow of soul and where we're all just passing through (though passions run high).


...is 'perfect' better than 'flawless'? ...is it true, dogs 'innate' cats? Best to stop trying to teach yourself the answers. If a book can be a treasure box, we'll always be neighbors.


Learning how to submit to the precious and strange is the way we love to love: time remaining—another 8 billion years! What's to keep yourself for, anyway? Once you lose everything, it's O.K.—to be "immersed in sound that defies time and narrative structure" is the only goal now. Here—less than one—you don't have to decide anything knowing the body itself is the proper approach, and strength in its innovative love and joy is what you find.


You're close to closing a deal with the long term, wondering if you can deliver, wondering who you'll be making friends with on the road. The message from the maze?—still sound—(but a real lion's just another twist on lone wolf, look at your using focus to speak out, how learning to adjust lightens one's burden).


An upbeat tone follows sounding off—even if some of us just love to hate, here it's always soul-searching time. After all, doesn't milk sound like a miracle?


O heart the sea we ride on not knowing light from darkness, nor contracting from expanding... The pod with seed bursts open and spreads and lifts up not to heaven but to memory where are reborn the Names spoken into the unappeasable void. I in dialogue with it now aspire to a new place in time and in space, remembered foremost as over-stepped and under wraps, transcending habits of thought and constellating into the life of a new language being spoken and being heard forever becoming what it is and what it will be.


Crows, teach me your blackness sound. Path, be the grass we wend our way around that butterflies, white and fluttering, alight on. Voices of children marking the distance traveled, double-back to excursions not yet gone on. Bird, unseen, I won't run out from under your song but, like a fly in the sun, will bask in this sensing I belong. Lizard on the path conjured as if by a wish, delicately climb bamboo-stalks heavenward then vanish. Tree trunk I'm mistaken for, fortify this dwelling to recognize my world by. Squirrels hopping from branch to branch of the trees, show me what movement's like when free. Ant crawling this page's edge, clung to like an anchor to the deep, stay, play until when I lay me down to sleep. Spider on the post, or is that fly, adhere to a hardness wood would praise, half on earth half in sky. Then day, let dove winging above me before disappearing from sight, be talisman of passing vision's oncoming night. Infant crying whose face I cannot see, still your fears to let gently what becomes you, be.

If I pray, air, to breathe you in and out once more, let valves of my heart open and close as motions of a creaturely door bee-buzzed past my ear whose outline morning with its ant-seething ground draws here: where says bird with red-berry in its beak—He takes walks and lets talk of day make hay with shadow the silence seeks, while a yellow-tailed dragonfly, first my head anointing, lands beside me, eyes green in the sun reconnoitering.


The writer, upon waking up, thinks: Everything I do is a translation from somewhere, I don't know where, so I prefer to tell my story with as little violence as possible (is it possible?). I will write these lines from that place where I will someday die, and be reborn—I know now—so let the light growing steadier with age become, like the spark in these depths, an opened eye!


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