THREE POEMS by Rumiko Kora, trans. Judy Halebsky & Ayako Takahashi

/ / Featured Poetry, Monthly, Poetry, Translation

Alive, the wind


lifts seeds 
and carries them away
spider eggs hatch and depart on the wind
over years the wind breaks down plants into soil
we are of the wind and all of our senses
the wind breathing 
through us



Within the Trees, A Universe

                     -Sacred Forest of Kinabatangan, Malaysia

people listen to the trees speak
the trees heard the people

there is light in the woods             there was darkness 
both life and death
there are voices              and so there was silence
within the woods a universe

within the trees        a human becomes human 



A Mother Speaks

                  After seeing the noh play, A Killing Stone, Sesshôseki


the play starts in Nasuno province
on the stage      there’s a thick purple silk cloth 
covering a stone that was dropped 
over a field      like a cracked rotten egg 
a bird flies over the stone      and drops 
dead to the ground, any living thing, person 
or animal that touches that stone     dies

a village woman tells the story of this terrifying stone
it starts with her failed attempt      to take the emperor’s life 
which left her spirit captured within the stone 
that now casts spells      on the living

when the stone      splits open
the village woman appears as a ghost 
and the dead return      hatching through the stone
pulsing with energy      stronger than even the living

the woman’s blaring red rage steadies 
and fades to a pale color
the stone again becomes an egg 
the defeated become the victors
the lost become found      the dead revive 

she speaks, the years steal from us
we are robbed of our eggs      and escape to the wilderness
we give birth to stone children
hold them in our arms warming the stone
abreast of the thieves who stole our eggs

her ghostly feet glide      stamp the ground
a voice within the mask      scolds us 
echoing from another world
will you be ruled by this bearing      always


Rumiko KORA (1932-2021) was a poet, translator, and critic born and raised in Tokyo. Her book The Voice of a Mask won the Contemporary Poetry Prize in 1988. She also wrote essays and novels and co-translated an anthology of poetry from Asia and Africa. She devoted herself to promoting women’s work and was instrumental in establishing the Award for Women Writers. Much of her writing focuses on identifying the struggles and contradictions of a female gender identity.

Ayako Takahashi and Judy Halebsky work collaboratively to translate poetry between English and Japanese.

Ayako TAKAHASHI is a scholar and translator teaching at University of Hyogo in Japan. Her recent scholarship includes the books Ambience: Ecopoetics in the Anthropocene (Shichosha, 2022) and Reading Gary Snyder (Shichosha 2018). She has published translations of many American poets such as Jane Hirshfield, Anne Waldman, and Joanne Kyger, among others (Anthology of Contemporary American Women Poets, Shichosha 2012).

Judy HALEBSKY is a poet. She is the author of Spring and a Thousand Years (Unabridged) (University of Arkansas Press, 2020) Tree Line (New Issues 2014) and Sky=Empty, winner of the New Issue Prize (New Issues, 2010). She has also published articles on cultural translation and noh theatre. She is a professor of Literature and Language and the director of the MFA program at Dominican University of California. Ayako and Judy have been working together for several years and have previously published articles in ecopoetry and English language haiku.