Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Letter From America

Shortly before I left home for Los Angeles, a family friend gave me a card that contained a clip from the New York Times.

Framed and yellowing, it sits in my studio today.

Seiji Tsutsumi has spent his life building a literary career as well as a business empire. Under the pen name Takashi Tsujii, he published the following poem, "Letter From America," in 1964, shortly after returning from several months in Los Angeles, where he failed in trying to establish a Seibu department store. The poem, which first appeared in a book called "Letter With No Address," was translated by Hisao Kanaseki and Timothy Harris.
Steel sheets flow out in long belts
Keeping a quiet rhythm.
The evening glow paints the sky a flaming red.
People line up who have forgotten they were once created by people and flow like magnetic sands on a magnet.
There, on the continent that was proclaimed to be new, love is no more than a crudely fashioned machine.
I, like you, am alone and drink salt in the dawn. 
People seek solace in far fields, leaving the cities at a hundred miles an hour.
They eat exactly the same food, importing chopsticks from the Orient, cooked raspberries from Alaska, creating fads which denounce fads, only faintly remembering that they, as embryos, looked like fish, turtles, bulls.
Tropical rhythms beat out from speakers built into walls, coating the glittering steel. 
I am alone.
You are alone.
In the conference room the gavel shrieks of everlasting prosperity. 

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