Sunday, October 28, 2018

Nanao and Bikki


Last night I had a dream that Nanao asked me to tell people about his friend Bikki. When I published poet Nanao Sakaki's book of poems "Let's Eat Stars", the cover art was by Ainu artist Bikki Sunazawa (enhanced by Beth Leonard,it is an image I now have tattooed on my right arm). Nanao was a great admirer of Bikki's work, and "Let's Eat Stars" contains two poems specifically speaking to Bikki. I have included them below.You can learn more about Bikki in the excellent book "From The Playground of the Gods - The Life & Art of Bikky Sunazawa" by Chisato O. Dubreuil.




Bikki Salmon

Bikki salmon swimming
Nanao salmon swimming
Allen salmon swimming
Gary salmon swimming
Black Elk salmon swimming
Issa salmon swimming
Lao Tsu salmon swimming
Ezo wolf salmon swimming
Ainu Koroppocl salmon swimming
Yamanba witch salmon swimming
Maitreya Buddha salmon swimming
Northern Cross salmon swimming

Fair-weather cumulus floating
in October morning sky
rosy fruits of mountain ash trembling.
I stand on the cemented bank
of the River Teshio, Hokkaido, Japan.
A river straightened and strangled by man,
and on the bank, scattered eggs of salmon
left by a poacher.

Orion high in the evening sky
geese and swans head southward
maple leaves burning red
deer cry for love in fir forest
boletus edulis and wild grape
invite you into the mountains.

Just before the Sea of Okhotsk
begins to shine with drifting ice
North Pacific salmon return to mother rivers
where woods and waters nursed them years before.

Salmon means
blood and meat to grizzly
Fish of God to Ainu
Fish of festival to Japanese.

In the pebbly river
against quick running water
holding their energy
they wait and wait
and suddenly, thrusting their fins
they leap up the stream
-Hurry to the spot of their birth and death.

Bikki Sunazawa, legendary Ainu artist
for him too the time has come.
While cutting a woodblock print of the Fish of God
he becomes a salmon.
Having fish eyes, nose, scales, tattoos,
spirals and soul
He's now a seventy-centimeter-long fish, Bikki salmon.

Pectoral fin, dorsal fin,
ventral fin,
adipose fin, anal fin.

Under the river banks, heaps of trash
...TV sets, refrigerators,
...chemical flotsam in the river
...acid rain and radiation in the air

Against the flow of poison
Against the flow of decay
Mumbling Heart Sutra
Bikki salmon swimming.

In this crooked generation
salmon moves straight forward.

Now the ripples ripple in unison:
"Sing, dance as the river flows!"
"Sing, dance as life flows!"
"Sing, dance with your friends!"

Bikki salmon swimming
Nanao salmon swimming
Allen salmon swimming
Gary salmon swimming
Black Elk salmon swimming
Issa salmon swimming
Lao Tsu salmon swimming
Ezo wolf salmon swimming
Ainu Koroppocl salmon swimming
Yamanba witch salmon swimming
Maitreya Buddha salmon swimming
Northern Cross salmon swimming
Bikki, Bikki
Bikki salmon swimming
in River Teshio.

********************************

Star Bikki

A myth - a new star is born!
There are teeny, tiny six thousand stars
in the solar system, the minor planets or asteroids
which turn around the sun, day & night.

Somebody discovered a new one
& named it Bikki after my friend's name.

Bikki Sunazawa -
born in Hokkaido as Ainu
all his life he was carving
something in the empty sky with his chisel
something in wood with his soul
like his grandfathers.

Oct. 1988, his health was not good -
on one beautiful afternoon
I took my canoe & visited his studio.

Looking into my eyes, he asked
"Nanao, is the twenty-first century really coming?"

Tired out, Jan. 1989 he said
"Bye-bye" to this world.

And one day he metamorphosed into a tree,
his favorite one, an Ezo spruce in his garden.
The tree grows higher & higher above the clouds.
Today you find him in the solar system
as one of the minor planets.

Hi Star Bikki. Congratulations!

Do you know about your new identity card?
1. Registered number: 5372
2. Star Name: Bikki
3. Temporary number: 1987 WS
4. Discoverer: Kin Marudate, Kazuo Watanabe
5. Discovery spot: Kitami, Hokkaido, Japan

Hi Star Bikki! Nowadays
what are you carving?
What songs are you singing?
What kind of sake are you drinking?

Hi Star Bikki! Sometime
send me a postcard
decorated full of stars!


poems by Nanao Sakaki
photo of Bikki Sunazawa from "From the Playground of the Gods"

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