Definitions: AN IMPOSSIBLE APPROACH TO A GLASS (poem) - Shuntaro Tanikawa - Japan - Poetry International
previous | next





我々の知性、我々の経験、我々の技術がそれをこの地上に生み出し、我々はそれを名づけ、きわめて当然のようにひとつながりの音声で指示するけれど、それが本当は何なのか  誰も正確な知識を持っているとは限らないのである。
It often takes a cylindrical shape with a base, but not a top. It is a depression that stands erect. It is a defined space closed to face a center of gravity. It can hold a certain pre-defined amount of liquid without letting the liquid disperse within the earth’s gravitation. When only the air fills it we say it is empty, but even then its outline is shown clearly by light, and the existence of its mass can be confirmed by a levelheaded glance, without relying on instruments.
When tapped by fingers, it vibrates to generate sound. At times the sound is used as a signal; at rare occasions, as a unit in music. But the resonance has a sort of stubborn self-satisfaction beyond utility and assaults our ears. It is placed on a dining table. Also it is grabbed by a person’s hand. It often slips out of a person’s hand. In fact it hides a possibility of becoming a weapon, as it can easily be intentionally broken into pieces.
But after it is broken into pieces, it does not cease to exist. Even if, at that moment, all of its kind on earth were broken to smithereens, we could not escape from it. Even though it is named in a different orthography in each specific cultural confine, it already exists as a fixed idea shared among all. So, even if we were forbidden, accompanied with extreme forms of punishment, to actually make it (with glass, wood, iron, or clay), we would not be free from the nightmare that it does exist.
It is a tool used mainly to quench thirst. But in spite of the fact that, under some extreme circumstances, it functions no better than two palms put together to create a depression, it undoubtedly exists silently as a thing of beauty, in the context of current diversified human lives, at times under the morning sunlight, at times under artificial lighting.
Our intelligence, our experience, and our technology gave birth to it on this earth and named it. We point to it by a string of sounds as if that were a matter of course. Yet, as to what it really is, people may not necessarily have accurate knowledge.