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by Hiroaki Sato

Suzuki Shizuko may well have been a victim of the harsh economic conditions brought on by Japan’s defeat in August 1945, followed by the Occupation. She referred to herself as shōfu 娼婦, which can be translated, bluntly, as “prostitute”. The writer Saitō Sanki, in writing about the time in Japan following the Second World War, observed that “Any woman, as long as she was a woman, didn’t have to worry about starvation.” But it seems there may have been other reasons as well.

Shizuko was born in Tokyo, in 1919, and attended a five-year women’s higher school. While a student, in 1938, her haiku began to appear in The Sea of Trees (Jukai), a haiku magazine edited and published by Matsumura Kyoshū, who would duly become her “teacher.” In 1939 she attended a technical drafting school, and upon graduation was employed by a machine tool manufacturer, and then later in the design division of Toshiba.

Shizuko had extraordinary luck with her writing: in early 1946 she was paid ¥500 (nearly equivalent to a policeman’s annual salary at the time) for her first book of haiku, Spring Thunder (Shunrai). Thereafter Shizuko’s haiku began to appear in various haiku magazines with those of established haiku poets. They were discussed in forums, and special issues on her appeared.

In 1948 Shizuko was 28, unmarried but (unhappily) engaged, and pregnant. Her haiku from that year suggest she aborted the foetus and buried it herself, broke off the engagement, and then moved to Gifu, possibly following a GI with whom she was involved. She took up dancing and started working for a “dance hall,” actions tantamount to becoming a prostitute. In June 1950 the Korean War erupted. In October she began living with a black GI named, possibly, Kelly Kracke. In May 1951, when her GI-lover was stationed at the Korean front, she followed. In June she started sending “masses” of haiku to her haiku editor-teacher Kyoshū. She returned to Japan three months later, possibly seriously wounded, only to move to Yokohama when her lover was transferred there on his way to being sent back to the United States.

She published her second selection, Ring (Yubiwa), in early 1952, then disappeared. From her own afterword to Ring and from unpublished haiku, we may presume that she committed suicide.

Much of this information comes from Kawamura Ranta, Shizuko: Shōfu to yobareta haijin o otte (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 2011), which includes all of Shizuko’s haiku.1

 

横濱に人と訣れし濃霧かな

Yokohama ni hito to wakareshi nōmu kana

At Yokohama I parted with my love: the dense fog

 

欲るこころ手袋の指器に觸るる

Horu kokoro tebukuro no yubi ki ni fururu2

Desiring heart: my fingers in a glove touch the thing

 

中年の男の魅力鳥雲に

Chūnen no otoko no miryoku tori kumo ni

A middle-aged man’s charm: bird in a cloud3

 

アマリリス娼婦に似たる気の動き

Amaririsu shōfu ni nitaru ki no ugoki

Amaryllis: my mind resembling a hooker moves

 

積乱雲西ゆ頭上本能を恥ず

Sekiran’un nishi yu zujō honnō o hazu

Thunderhead: from the west above my head ashamed of instinct

 

節操や朝ひとときの葡萄の葉

Sessō ya asa hitotoki no butō no ha

Chastity: morning for a moment a leaf of grape

 

ひらく寒木瓜浮気な自分におどろく

Hiraku kanboke uwakina jibun ni odoroku

Open cold flowering quince:4 my flirty self surprises me

 

ほろろ山吹婚約者を持ちながらひとを愛してしまつた5

Hororo yamabuki kon’yakusha o mochinagara hito o aishiteshimatta

Fluttering Kerria rose: though I have a fiancé I’ve ended up loving someone else

 

あはれ指紋すべての娼婦とられたり

Aware shimon subete no shōfu toraretari

Pity: fingerprints taken from all the hookers

 

ダンサーも娼婦のうちか雪消の葉

Dancer mo shōfu no uchi ka yukige no ha

Dancers too are hookers aren’t they: thawing leaves

 

売春や鶏卵にある掌の温み

Baishun ya keiran ni aru te no nukumi

Prostitution: warmth of a chicken egg that’s in my palm

 

娼婦またよきか熟れたる柿食うぶ

Shōfu mata yoki ka uretaru kaki taubu

Being a hooker’s good too: eating a ripe persimmon

 

あきのあめ衿の黑子をいはれけり

Aki no ame eri no hokuro o iwarekeri

In autumn rain someone pointed to a mole on my nape

 

湯の中に乳房いとしく秋の夜

Yu no naka ni chibusa itoshiku aki no yoru

In the hot bath my breasts are dear this autumn night

 

くちびるのかはきに耐ゆる夜ぞ長き

Kuchibiru no kawaka ni tayuru yo zo nagaki

Putting up with the thirst of my lips the night is long

 

ダンサーになろか凍夜の驛間歩く

Dancer ni naro ka tōya no ekima aruku

Shall I be a dancer: on freezing night I walk between stations

 

春雪の不貞の面て擲ち給へ

Haruyuki no futei no omote uchitamae

In spring snow please slap my face of infidelity

 

體内にきみが血流る正坐に耐ふ

Tainai ni kimi ga chi nagaru seiza ni tau

In my body your blood flows I endure sitting erect

 

肉感に浸りひたるや熟れ石榴

Nikukan ni hitarihitaru ya mure zakuro

Immersed in sensuality: ripe pomegranate

 

好きなものは玻璃薔薇雨驛指春雷

Suki na mono wa ruri bara ame aki yubi shunrai

What I like: crystal roses rains stations fingers spring thunder

 

すでに戀ふたつありたる雪崩かな

Sudeni koi futatsu aritaru nadare kana

Already there are two loves running: an avalanche

 

まぐはひのしづかなるあめ居とりまく

Maguwai no shidukana ame i-torimaku

Lovemaking: a quiet rain stays and surrounds us

 

裸か身や股の血脈あをく引き

Hadakami ya mata no ketsumyaku aoku hiki

Naked body: blood vessels on the thighs trail blue

 

情慾や亂雲とみにかたち變へ

Jōyoku ya ran’un tomini katachi kae

Lust: thunderheads rapidly change their shapes

 

月夜にておもひつづくるあらぬこと

Tsukiyo nite omoi tsudukuru aranu koto

At this moon I keep thinking of what isn’t quite right

 

黑人と踊る手さきやさくら散る

Kokujin to odoru tesaki ya sakura chiru

At my hands dancing with a black man cherry blossoms scatter

 

花の夜や異國の兵と指睦び

Hana no yo ya ikoku no hei to yubi mutsubu

Flower night: with a soldier of a foreign land finger-mate

 

霙れけり人より貰ふ錢の額

Mizorekeri hito yori morau zeni no gaku

Sleeting: the sum of dough I get from a man

 

北風のなか昂ぶり果ての泪ぬぐふ

Kitakaze no naka takaburihate no namida nugū

Amid north wind at end of climax I wipe tears

 

雷こんこん死びとの如き男の手

Yuki konkon shibito no gotoki otoko no te

Snow falls falls: the hand of a cadaver-like man

 

菊は紙片の如く白めりヒロポン缺く

Kiku wa shihen no gotoku shiromeri Hiropon kaku

The chrysanthemum whitens like paper pieces: Hiropon6 inadequate

 

コスモスなどやさしく吹けど死ねないよ

Kosumosu nado yasashiku fukedo shinenai yo

Cosmos and things gently blow but I can’t die

 

遊廓へ此の道つづく月の照り

Yūkaku e kono michi tuduku tsuki no teri

To a pleasure house this road leads in the moonshine

 

夏みかん酸つぱしいまさら純潔など

Natsumikan7 suppashi imasara junketsu nado

Summer citrus sour now the hell with virginity

 

黑人兵の本能強し夏銀河

Kokujinhei no honnō tsuyoshi natsu-gkinga

The black soldier’s instinct strong: summer Galaxy

 

霧五千海里ケリー・クラッケへだたり死す

Kiri gosen kairi Kerii Kurakke hedatari shisu

Fog 5,000 nautical miles Kelly Kracke separated dies

 

  1. The original version of this article was revised for Juxtapositions 3.1 and JuxtaThree by Jim Kacian.
  2. The Chinese character ki 器 means “vehicle,” “receptacle,” but here suggests “phallus.”
  3. An allusion to Bashō’s この秋はなんで年よる雲に鳥 / kono aki wa nande toshiyoru kumo ni tori / This autumn, why do I grow old? In clouds a bird.
  4. The flowering quince (Chaenomeles lagenaria Koidz) puts on orange-red or pink blossoms. The kind mentioned here blooms in winter, hence the Japanese name is kanboke, “cold quince.”
  5. This piece utterly ignores the 5-7-5-syllable pattern and has far more than seventeen syllables, making it read like any of the “free-rhythm” (jiyū-ritsu) haiku advocated by Kawahigashi Hekigodō and others, although it did include the haikuesque kigo, “Kerria rose” (yamabuki), large, pompom-like double yellow flowers (Kerria japonica ‘Pleniflora’).
  6. Hiropon was the pharmaceutical company Dai-Nippon Seiyaku’s trademark for methamphetamine, which was commonly used during the war to suppress fatigue. In the years immediately following the war it became the most common drug though its use was supposed to be limited to certain medical purposes, and thus became a social problem. Subsequently, a law banned its use.
  7. Natsumikan, “summer orange,” (Citrus natsudaidai) is a species of citrus that has a striking resemble to grapefruit in appearance and size, but it was generally sour and was thought to be preferred by pregnant women.
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