A Fleabane Poem

Canadian Fleabane

Dear Readers, I realised when I’d finished yesterday’s post that poor old Fleabane hadn’t been celebrated in a poem. And so I found this, which I loved. It’s by Rin Ishigaki, who was born in 1920 and worked as a bank clerk, giving her the name of ‘the bank clerk poet’. I’m not quite sure why it’s affected me so much, but there’s that sense of time passing, of great upheavals and change, and those two last lines made the hairs on the back of my neck rise. See what you think.

The poem is a bit of a cheek because Philadelphia Fleabane is actually much closer to Mexican Fleabane than to our plant, but I’m going to move swiftly on.


I plucked wildflowers at Marunouchi in Tokyo.
At the end of the 1920’s
I was in my mid-teens.

On my way to work
To the Bank
The hem of my kimono-trousers flapping
Just a dash up the embankment beside the footpath
Before my eyes an open field.
Philadelphia fleabane
Wildflowers too poor
To decorate my desk at work.

Its been about half a century since then
Days came when the buildings blazed in the flames of war,
Around the postwar Tokyo Station
Just like a graph of the economic boom
Tall skyscrapers bloomed.

I retired at the mandatory retirement age,
I don’t suppose any firms are left which take
Girls straight from primary school.
Even women are questioned about their market value
And ranked accordingly.
Women bloom in competition
But the day has finally come when they cannot possibly be wildflowers.

Farewell Marunouchi
Now no open fields anywhere
The thin green stem that I once squeezed
Was my own neck.
© Translation: 2005, Leith Morton

2 thoughts on “A Fleabane Poem

  1. Ann Bronkhorst

    Yes, the ending is disturbing. Realisation that her life has passed, with nothing to show for it, like many women’s lives.


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