I have finally finished translating a poem about living near the radiation-leaking nuclear plant. I chose to upload it because I think the poem communicates some of the confusion, anger and fear in the region.
Since March 11th, Fukushima residents have had to base countless decisions on numbers – the radiation levels, from whether or not it is safe to eat a piece of fruit, or whether or not they should desert a family home.
How can you find out radiation levels? Radiation is not something you can see or smell easily. Unless you have your own detector, the numbers come from the media: TV, radio, newspapers and the internet all provide regular updates.
The numbers in this poem represent microsievert levels. Microsieverts indicate the degree of damage caused by radiation. Microsievert numbers might not mean much to you; they do not mean much to many Japanese either. Just everybody knows that the higher the microsievert figure, the worse things are.
The author of the poem, Michimasa Kayutzuka (粥塚伯正) lives in Iwaki. A port and former mining city in Fukushima, Iwaki is home to over 300,000 people. It is 40 km from the damaged nuclear plant.
I found the poem on the Hibi no Shinbun website, a bi-weekly review of Iwaki news. My unauthorised translation and the Japanese version are added below. I am not confident of the accuracy of the translation, but I hope my version still gets some of the message across. Any comments or corrections are appreciated.
I am alive in Iwaki today
Grazing my cheeks, each hour, a 0.23 microsievert / wind blows / I try to remember the events of March 11th
A locquat tree planted 10 years ago / this year, for the first time / is loaded with fruit / each day bit by bit / growing like fetuses / “If we eat just one, it will be ok” / my wife says / “If we wash it, it will be ok / she says, but….
Ahhhh, I want to breathe deeply / open up my lungs / and suck up the blue sky
To stay alive / we have changed how we breathe / I wonder, will we become different creatures? / Turn over a stone / underneath, if an ant lies spinning around on its back / surely, that ant / must be me
From March 12th, relentless radiation / Each day I mark the readings in my notebook / Today, it is 0.21 microsieverts each hour / Hey, it`s gone down a little, let`s hope it goes down again tomorrow / (my wife`s words)
This morning, I went down to the garden / Gee! Gee! Screaming cicadas flew about / (Their cast-off skins hung on the crape myrtle tree) / Creatures I`d completely forgotten / this year too, have flown to us
Don`t go quiet! / Don`t go quiet! / To all the dead: Keep on screaming out / this pitiful scene!
Don`t go quiet! / Don`t go quiet! / For the dead! / For the living! / For our souls!
To keep on living / To keep on living
Do not go quiet / Do not go quiet / Do not go quiet