Living this year
and seeing the blossom
one person in a lifetime
how many times do you see the cherry blossom
if grown aware of it first at, say, ten –
then around about seventy maximum,
some only thirty maybe forty,
what a small number!
The sense of it seen many, many more times
is a mingling, accumulating mist
of our ancestors’ visions:
though eerie, weird, bewitching,
the gathering colour,
when tentatively treading under blizzards of petals
in a moment –
an illustrious monk – you realise
it’s death is the ordinary condition,
and life a tender mirage.
Notes on this poem
Noriko Ibaragi (1926–2006) is, together with Shuntarō Tanikawa, the most highly regarded and popular poet of post-war Japan. She has had an immense impact on contemporary Japanese poetry and her collections have sold in the millions. Her two earliest collections embody a new generation’s desire to blossom out of the war’s rubble and celebrate the beauty of the human and natural universe. ‘Fruits’ is from her second collection, Invisible Messengers (1957).
‘Cherry’ is from her seventh poetry collection, The Drifting Smell of Coffee from the Dinner Table (1992). It was during this time that her work established her towering reputation in the Japanese poetry world. In the same year, Peter Robinson and Fumiko Horikawa published the first collection of Ibaragi’s work in English. We are currently collaborating on a substantially enlarged and revised selection from across her entire oeuvre.