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jun takami | blackboard

Jun Takami

(1907-1965)

Blackboard

Afternoon sun shines
on white curtains
of my hospital room.
Like a classroom.

When I was in Junior High
my favorite English teacher
erased the chalk on the board and
books under his arm
left the classroom with afternoon
sun on his shoulders.

I’d leave life like that
wiping out everything with one swing
saying ‘So.’

[from JAPANESE POETRY NOW, Remade into English by Thomas Fitzsimmons, Schocken Books, 1972]

8 Comments

  1. Lovely poignant poem. & the poet is a new one to me. Thanks!

  2. Our lives, written in chalk,
    erased with a swipe on the board,
    and then we leave?

  3. Great exit. Thanks.

  4. Would that the man who has temporarily given blackboards a bad name would say ‘So!’ and leave the room.

    Forever.

    The great poem you send is not ruined by anyone.

  5. While the numbers and words on the chalkboard may be erased, as an educator, I hope the knowledge, ideas and challenges remain in the hearts and minds of the students. So, too, I believe when our lives are “wiped out” there is something of us that remains in the spirit of those whose lives we have touched.

  6. Barbara Vroman

    March 5, 2011 at 12:09 am

    Some people can not seem to get wiped out…they remain
    almost forever. Who hasn’t heard of Jesus and Cleopatra?
    What is most lovely about the poem, is the “ease of going”,
    leaving it all behind, if not always “wiped out.”

  7. This poem finds me remembering a poem by my late husband, Walter Pavlich:
    AFTER SEVEN YEARS, I REMEMBER THE BLIND MATHEMATICIAN

    After school I watched you
    muttering numbers to yourself in the empty classroom,
    then on the blackboard you traced
    a formula, paused, and erased it.
    I ran home to the piano, felt each note
    linger and die beautiful beneath my hands.
    I haven’t learned much since then.
    You knew we cheated on every test.

    How did geometry rise out of that haze
    the eyes scraped pure, blue, and bottomless?
    There are at least two kinds of darkness
    and one of them dissolves
    the blooming rhododendron,
    another tugs the string that keeps me awake
    and walking into tomorrow.

  8. A few years ago I have translated Jun Takami’s collection of poems called “The Study of Trees” into English using the Russian translations. I was fascinated by his poems. Hopefully, my English interpretations are not too rude for him. I wonder if there are direct English translations of Takami.

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