Saturday, December 1, 2012

Otomo Tabito: An Interpretation

Thirteen Tanka in Praise of Sake

1

Rather than worry,
which, after all, is useless,
it would behoove you
to toss off a cup or two
of sake.  Or more maybe.

2

For calling it "sage,"
as that magnificent sage
of long ago did,
let's raise our cups in a toast
to him & his sweet vision.

3

The Seven Sages
of the Bamboo Grove craved it
& craved it more than
all else in their rustic lives
all those centuries gone by.

4

Poets!  Stop wasting
time churning out spurious
words pretending you're wise.
You'd be better off crying
drunken tears in your sake.

5

No, I don't know how
to talk about it, but when
sake's in my cup,
I hold it in the highest
regard, a shimmering prize.

6

If I had a choice,
I wouldn't be a lowly man.
I'd not be a man
at all.  I'd be a sake
jar, always soaking in sake.

7

How repulsive!  These
phonies who think it's smart when
they refuse sake.
If they saw through my eyes, they'd
see they're no better than apes.

8

My Buddhist friends claim
they carry within always
the master's priceless
jewels, but none of that amounts
to one small cup of sake.

9

Even the shiny
jewels strung across the sky--aren't
they, in reality,
the manifestation of
a night spent drinking sake?

10

Considering all the ways
in which we may wile away
our time, it's funny
that the one which brings the most
joy is crying sake tears.

11

Well, if I spend this
life in drunken revelry,
maybe in the next
I'll come back as a bird or
maybe just a little bug.

12

All that lives, so it's
said, someday will surely die.
While I'm alive then,
I might as well enjoy my life.
I want what gives me pleasure.

13

With enlightenment
comes serenity as well
as knowledge, but I'd
rather sob sake-soused tears
than live such a boring life.

1 comment:

Matt Morris said...

This interpretation is based primarily on Geoffrey Bownas & Anthony Thwaite's translation in The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse, first published in 1964.