During the day, an old man comes to fish the river

a child sits beneath a tree    surprised

the fisherman is calm, unhurried    unlike the fish

whose fate is changeable    the old man’s day

witnessed by the child    though she

can hardly guess at his night-time

she only knows that in a bamboo grove far away

one can barely discern the old man’s house    the child never

enters the dark green bamboo shelter             keeps watch

for the old man on the small river bank on a rainy day

his white whiskers visible under a bamboo hat    flashing silver

like a crucian carp’s belly    the fish meets his fate

is loaded into a bamboo basket    carried off by the fisherman

during this entire day    rainwater and the small river

trace the child’s shadow    under the tree

as her bench caves in    she worries

about the fish’s fate as they come and go

grasping the bait in their mouths    spitting it out

sometimes    one among them

luckily takes the bait    scooped up by the old man

who walks into another fate    sees people    chatting    smiling

courteously . . . the child listens to the old man’s teachings

she cannot grow up during summer    summer’s body

unveils    mosquitoes’ fervor    like fish out of water

leads the old man away    in summer’s foul stench, suffused with death

too near to us    on that night    in the small house in a bamboo grove

the old man was killed for money

though rumor has it too many ghosts kept chasing him

 

 

Translated by Susan M. Schultz and Jennifer Feeley