Poems by Takahashi Mutsuo

translated from the Japanese by Jeffrey Angles

  • The Rose Tree (From Rose Tree, Fake Lovers, 1964)
  • Him (From Rose Tree, Fake Lovers, 1964)
  • The Dead Boy (From Rose Tree, Fake Lovers, 1964)
  • I Need Nothing        Nothing Other Than That (From Rose Tree, Fake Lovers, 1964)
  • Lovers in the Guise of Wolf-Gods (From You Dirty Ones, Do Dirtier Things!, 1966)

    The Rose Tree [1]

    My heroic lover! You are a rose
    A slightly pale rose, aromatic with sex
    I kneel prostrate before you
    Your thighs, which my trembling arms embrace,
    Are a rose
    Nearby my closed eyes
    Is a clump of grass full of scent
    And in it, an infant rose damp with dew
    Sleeps the slumber of dawn
    I cling to you like a Greek supplicant
    While above me
    Your fingers open entranced
    Your jaw turns upward
    At some point
    You have become a brawny rose bush
    With leaves eating away the sun

    Him [2]

    A rustling pear tree —
    It spreads before me as I stand unmoving
    An expanding night —
    No trees to stand, no creatures to crawl the earth
    The undulating ground continues onward
    Until it embraces the ruined, anguished sky

    There in the sky
    That spot at the end of the earth,
    I see it — an invisible prison
    Thick iron bars, inside, an upturned chin
    Slightly parted lips sighing sweet breath
    Eyelashes curving upward
    An enraptured thinker
    Encircled with a heavy chain of flowers

    Is the figure seated on the
    Simple wooden chair suffering?
    Is he intoxicated?
    — Legs crossed
    An inverted tree of blood vessels
    Runs over his wide, bare chest,
    The weight of another earth
    Rests upon his shoulders
    While on his cylindrical arms
    With angrily swollen veins
    A yellow parrot gnaws at his raw flesh

    This invisible prison on the horizon
    This enchanted, suffering man inside the bars —
    What should I do to reach him?
    That forest of aromatic hair
    That shining pillar, that sun of darkness
    Those dark thighs under the boxing shorts
    Sunken in between, a pale lily

    What should I do
    To kneel at the base of
    This man's grandeur and intensity?
    To kneel beneath this man's armpit hair
    And the smouldering aroma of his sex?
    What should I do to plant a kiss
    Upon his toes bare upon the dust? —
    The images of all heroes, all saints
    All winged Hermes, all thieves
    Prostate themselves at this man's feet

    The man
    Grows even bigger
    In the pale sky marked by a hot trembling iron
    While my shadow and I
    Beside the rustling pear
    Do not even stand as tall as the tree

    The Dead Boy [3]

    I am a boy, who not knowing love,
    Suddenly has fallen from the summit of a frightening infancy
    Into the darkness of a well
    Dark, watery hands choke my delicate neck
    Innumerable needles of coldness push into me
    Killing my heart, wet as a fish
    Within each internal organ, I swell like a flower
    As I move horizontally along the surface
    Of the subterranean water
    Before long, from the green horn in my groin
    A sprout none too reliable will grow
    Crawling up the heavy soil with thin hands
    The day will come when like a pallid face
    Its tree will rustle in the painful light
    For I desire as much space inside me for the light
    As space for the shadow

    I Need Nothing           Nothing Other Than That [4]

    I need nothing             Nothing other than
    That night filled with the rustling of a pear tree
    I need nothing             Nothing other than
    Those ribs from the cremated heavens
    That heavy air             That trumpet wet with saliva
    I need nothing             Nothing other than
    That shining skin             That sweat
    That downy hair that trembles all at once
    I need nothing             Nothing other than
    That cruel supporter             That aromatic phallus
    I need nothing             Nothing other than
    That night of the apostate's inquisition
    That scent of semen and bloodstains

    Lovers in the Guise of Wolf-Gods [5]

    "Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their
    own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves."

    The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans 1:24

    The wolf is the tree; the gale, the grass;
    The wolf runs through the forest sky and
    The wind over the face of the earth

    The trees scream, the grass hums —
    A soul stands stark naked
    Innards covered with blood

    Fangs of breath, the red of a scream —
    The curtain of darkness
    Creases, flapping in the air

    Teeth cracking and crunching —
    White foam —
    Claws rake the snowy mud

    The wolf by the tree, the gale in the grass:
    The tree-wolf is the wind
    And gale in the grass, the wolf


    Who will eat this fire?
    Who will run with the wind?
    Who will be the one to tear apart
    The heart convulsing in his hand?
    Who will change
    The forest covered in green
    To woods brimming with blowing snow
    Change in a flash a nest of love
    To a clump of infertile grass?

    The wolf, the agile darkness,
    Eats of fire, filling his starving flanks
    Then he gallops with the wind
    In his fur coat of a thousand glittering needles
    Warm blood soaks his flint teeth and claws —
    With his frozen breath
    The wolf, the spirit of winter,
    The blinding powder of bone
    Changes the young forest
    Into a forest of death and
    Eyes of fire into eyes of mud


    When he suckles at my breast
    The man becomes an infant wolf,
    He chews with a long, heavy bites
    On my pale, peach-coloured nipple
    Until even the last drop
    Has been sucked away

    When the milk comes no more,
    Blood and pain spill forth.
    My blood sucked away,
    I fade then swoon —
    In my unconscious dreams
    Filled with fear
    Without noticing
    I too have become a wolf
    Just like him


    Our love devours us,
    A love which tears
    With the teeth

    In our eyes
    Which exchange glances
    Are trees in flame

    Tearing, devouring,
    The backs of our kissing mouths
    Fangs of breath

    Seething blood
    Spouts out and
    Instantly freezes

    Our torture
    Is sympathy,
    Pain is pleasure

    Our wiry hair shudders
    Around our long shadows
    As we embrace


    Night in the park bushes —
    Lovers pull the wolf's head
    Completely over their own

    Wolves pull the heads of lovers
    Over their own and starve
    On the summit of the moon


    A wolf couple dances
    Where their chests rub together
    Soft fur against soft fur
    The small bird of love
    Is crushed to death

    A standing couple
    Clinks their glasses
    Of thick, blood-coloured wine;
    Upon them, downy fur of air
    Shines with a full lustre

    On a long couch,
    The couple tilts their ears towards a record
    Churning out bloodthirsty music

    With shuffling steps,
    The couple slides out into
    the hallway shadows
    And sucks blood from
    One another's backward bent necks

    In the garden,
    The couple kills a rosebud
    On the edge of a fountain that boils over —
    A sickly thin finger blurs its fresh blood

    One wolf faces the wall and silently
    Strikes out poetry of love on a typewriter
    The ink of the typewriter
    Is a warm, sanguine red


    Jostling saints of the stain-glass windows shattering into tiny fragments

    Continue to call out and be born in the dark gloom inside the tilting bell —

    Powdered silver of countless echoes —

    Clusters of genistas trailing downwards —

    Frightening ruinous gold hemming in the storm clouds —

    Inside the bushes a fully cloaked wolf howls and

    Lovers drink continuously of one another's blood


    In the cemetery where dead souls
    And maggot-filled flesh
    Hold their breath and whisper
    He stepped on the brakes —
    Tires squealed and slid over the thick grass

    Wrapped in our silence
    We flung away our coats
    And threw off our underclothes
    Suddenly embracing as if in anger —
    Outside, the rowan tree outside grazed our window

    It was as if the dead were saying,
    "We want to live"
    "We want to live"
    But in our moans and gushing pain
    We ignored the dead


    A glass jar holding honey-coloured alcohol —
    A glass pot full of rock candy —
    A tiny flask of perfumed oil —
    A mortar of poison —

    The glass of the ceiling
    Suddenly shatters and
    As fragments glitter amongst fragments,
    They avalanche down
    The roaring navy blue

    Feeling the awl of a fragment, for a moment
    The city of glass echoes above the earth
    And shatters into pieces
    Right then, the lovers pull
    The wolf's head over their own


    Facing the round sky
    Towers jostle
    Sharp points glitter
    A thousand bells ring
    A thousand bells echo
    The pigeon clock rings through the universe
    A cuckoo-clock screams
    A clock-owl shows its red mouth

    The pendulum of the great clock of heaven
    Springs out of place; the springs flip
    Gears snap and fly off in opposite directions
    The Roman numerals VIII IX X XI XII
    Turn somersaults on the face and fall

    Beloved lovers quickly
    Pull the wolves' heads over their own
    These men who love one another,
    Naked and in pairs,
    Fall in the pose of their love


    [1] Takahashi Mutsuo, "Bara no ki," Takahashi Mutsuo shishū, Gendaishi bunko 19 (Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1969):16-17. For another translation of the same poem, see Mutsuo Takahashi, 'The Rose Tree,' Poems of a Penisist, trans. Hiroaki Sato, Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1975, p. 9; reprinted in Takahashi Mutsuo, 'Six Poems,' Partings at Dawn: An Anthology of Japanese Gay Literature, ed. Stephen D Miller, San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1996, p. 221.

    [2] Takahashi Mutsuo, 'Sono hito,' Takahashi Mutsuo shishū, Gendaishi bunko 19 (Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1969) 17-18. For another translation of the same poem, see Mutsuo Takahashi, 'The Man,' in Poems of a Penisist, trans. Hiroaki Sato, Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1975, pp. 10-11.

    [3] Takahashi Mutsuo, "Shinda shōnen," Takahashi Mutsuo shishū, Gendaishi bunko 19, Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1969, p. 30. A CD recording of Takahashi reading the original Japanese text is included with several other works in Takahashi Mutsuo, Voice Garden: koe no niwa (Zushi: Star Valley Library, 1996). The text is read with musical accompaniment by the composer and pianist Takahashi Yūji, a close friend of Takahashi Mutsuo. The CD accompanying the booklet contains another translation of the poem by Hiroaki Sato. For a second translation of the same poem, see Takahashi Mutsuo, 'Dead Boy,' Like Underground Water: The Poetry of Mid-Twentieth Century Japan, trans. and ed. by Naoshi Koriyama and Edward Lueders, Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 1995, p. 227.

    [4] Takahashi Mutsuo, 'Boku wa nani mo iranai sono hoka ni wa,' Takahashi Mutsuo shishū, Gendaishi bunko 19, Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1969, p. 21. For another translation of the same poem, see Takahashi Mutsuo, 'I Need Nothing But...,' Like Underground Water: The Poetry of Mid-Twentieth Century Japan, trans. and ed. by Naoshi Koriyama and Edward Lueders, Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 1995, pp. 227-28.

    [5] Takahashi Mutsuo, 'Ōkami-gami no katachi o shita koibito-tachi,' Kegaretaru mono wa sara ni kegaretaru mono o nase, Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1966, pp. 29-51; reprinted in Takahashi Mutsuo, Takahashi Mutsuo shishū, Gendaishi bunko 19, Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1969, pp. 66-71.


  • This paper was originally published in Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context, with the assistance of Murdoch University.

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    From February 2008, this paper has been republished in Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific from the following URL: intersections.anu.edu.au/issue12/takahashi.html.

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