Skip to content

Takarabe Toriko / 財部鳥子 – Ⅰ

The Tang-hu-lu Vendor 



                 —Grandmother talked



Above the plain the Galaxy, head reared,

plays the flute in the dark universe tonight,

yet you can’t hear it.

There must have been a word here

but everyone’s forgotten it.

(You’ve been looking for it ever since.)

Even so the loess went on striking people’s thin eardrums,

ceaselessly making a noise like rustling silk.

The night you were born a cold wind was blowing.

The large river that had rolled in grains of sand,

while tensing up at the hint of ice,

went on flowing north darkly.


The withered branches of weeping willows on the bank were swaying violently.

In my house at a street corner the river water

had amply enwrapped my little girl’s little womb.

In her womb were you, an infant,

pricking up your ears.

The voice that came through the wind

was blown apart in the wind

and when the fragments reassembled,

they reached your ear as

tang-hu-lu . . . tanfuru. . . .


You remember,

that was your father’s voice,

the strong, throaty voice tinged with sadness,

the voice of a Shan-dung man in large cotton-padded pants.

What’s wrapped in frozen molasses are scarlet haws.

Skewered like jewels and gleaming,

and those skewers, many stuck into reed bundles,

carrying them on his shoulders to sell them, he walks about,

runny nose freezing in cold wind.

That’s your hometown.

Tang-hu-lu. . . .

Tanfuru. . . .

Between the low rumbles of the river,

tanfuru . . . prolonging the tail-end,

caressing the womb with a faint lantern lit in it, passing by.


(When I heard a tang-hu-lu vendor’s call as a child

I somehow thought of the other world.

I thought it was the voices of dragon kings afloat midair

or a voice that would take my soul away.

I have no father.)


You can’t eat them without coating them with molasses,

those sour, puckery, medicinal seeds, poisonous seeds,

those scarlet seeds like planets ready to collapse,

you were chewing on them in the womb,

your face contorted,

a bitter, wrinkled, little face.

You took a breath,

swallowed the puckery haws,

then cried aloud

when you were born. You did.