Poem by Inuhiko Yomota trans. by Hiroaki Sato





Before everything else, let me tell you about myself, [2]

it isn’t that I am the Devil.

I’ve never walked on the water,

nor have I shoved swine off a cliff. [3]

I haven’t devoured a peach [4]

careless of my appearance, either,

so to make someone frown.

Lost on a dumpsite with the sulfuric rains falling ceaselessly,

in an abandoned shack I changed my clothes with a beggar.

Chuckle, chuckle, now no one will notice I’m a great master under heaven.

When it comes to omens, smear pine tar all over them,

wrap them in yesterday’s newspapers and throw them away.

Then march toward Napoli.


With my end there’s a beginning, you say? [5]

Don’t be a fool.

My childhood was packed with goodies,

but since sixteen I’ve had nothing good.

Women with their bellies bloated like raw oysters.

I’ve sucked in stonemason’s dust and can’t stop my asthma.

I may appear correct in manners,

but I like silly women more than you’d think.

Viridiana, [6] are you still afraid of milking a cow?

The makeup of my ass is different from you guys. [7]


A book once written remains forever.

The egg has hair, the crescent moon melts with saliva.

Jesus existed. So did Pontius Pilate.

Who’ll notice I am a beggar?


Learning is

to be wrapped in white feathers. [8]

To become white feathers

in the seeing of salt. [9]

When will I be able to pull off such a trick?


Funeral rites, scattering chicken shit, Buddhist bags,

women’s chatter, deep-black soil on furrows,

shrunken, I’ll be just that.

You need a knack to walk on the water.

You smear pine tar on your soles in advance.

Then you choose dirty shallows (as with condoms floating in them).

Viridiana, foolish woman,

don’t tell anybody that I’ve done something bogus.

Even I could stop in the air, once upon a time.

So if you bury me, do it in a swarm of ferns.

A sulfurous smell rises from the flowers of lilies.

Look, pigs are devouring fallen peaches.

My heart is a stonemason’s heart.

My heart is an unshakable stone’s heart.





[1] Matthew14: 25. “And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. Matthew 14: 29. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.”

[2] The Rolling Stones, “Sympathy For the Devil”: “Please allow me to introduce myself.” Other allusions to The Rolling Stones lyrics are omitted.

[3] Matthew 8:32. “And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.”

[4] T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”: “Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?”

[5] T. S. Eliot, “Four Quartets”: “Or say that the end precedes the beginning, / And the end and the beginning were always there / Before the beginning and after the end.”

[6] The name of the protagonist of Luis Buñuel’s 1961 Mexican film with that name. Silvia Pinal played the protagonist.

[7] Arthur Rimbaud, “Les Stupra”: “Nos fesses ne sont pas les leurs. Souvent j'ai vu

Des gens déboutonnés derrière quelque haie,” etc. 

[8] One Chinese character meaning “learning” consists of two characters meaning “feather” and “white.”

[9] Genesis19: 24-26: “Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. But [Lot’s] wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.”