Three Temporalities of Agony

Janine Beichman. Masaoka Shiki (Boston: Twayne Publications, 1982).

From 1895 on, though he was uncertain when death would come, Shiki lived each day with its presence unbearably close. Time as he experienced it had qualities it does not have for most healthy people. First, it moved unbearably slowly and seemed extremely long, so that boredom was one of his chief torments. Second, and paradoxically, it seemed very short, moving swiftly and inexorably toward his own death. A sense of urgency, as expressed in the letter of 1895 about Kyoshi, coexisted with a sense of enormous tedium. Thirdly, time had no firmly imaginable future, for he felt he could not plan for more than a few hours ahead. There was only a past and a present. Death, though he knew it would come, was a darkness, unimaginable; he did not believe in an afterlife. These are the qualities time has when experienced in the midst of great anxiety over a portending and dreaded, but in some ways desired, event.
Ueno yama
yū koekureba
mori kurami
kedamono hoyuru
kedamono no sono
as evening comes across
Ueno Hill
the woods grow dark and
wild beasts howl in
the wild beast garden
itatsuki no
iyuru hi shirani
saniwabe ni
akikusabana no
tane o makashimu
I do not know the day
my pain will end yet
in the little garden
I had them plant
seeds of autumn flowers

Translation and romanization by Janine Beichman accessed at the Japanese Text Initiative at the University of Virginia Library.

And so for day 1536