It might be impossible to understand each phrase in a poem. Actually it is better to understand what we could understand, not a whole, in the way we want since a poems is a sort of word play to enjoy a sense of each word.
Shuntarou Tanikawa is a national poet who is so popular that one, growing up in Japan, must have read at least a piece of his poems. “A Morning Relay”, for instance, is famous one everybody knows. That his poems are austere is one of the reasons why his comes to be popular. Here I introduce one of them to convey his splendour.
We often hear the shadow of our life
Is told by gloomy words
A tomb, a hearse, a will
Don’t tell of death at all.
We don’t know beyond the shadow due to our life.
We don’t know to lose the emptiness.
We have too many mirrors
Which always make us see our life reflected.
We are only distance around our death.
Although we know what is a tomb and will, they don’t tell us what death is. In spite of knowing the word death, we cannot explain what it is, indicates Tanikawa. Characters of people are the same. His name is XX, a student of XX university, his hobby is reading, very kind, all of which are “mirrors” , are his “shadows”, so don’t tell any more of himself. To know those is not to know him. We cannot grab the essence due to the distance which, we hope to manage to deal with, Tanikawa calls “farness” here.
I wonder if this is a poem of the word. As I mentioned in the article of Yoko Tawada, the same question is here — that is, which word does it specifically express the essence of a desk, “desk” or “机”. While we cannot recognise the essence of objects, it is impossible to tell of them if we don’t name them expediently. If so, we have been already far away from the essence, therefore, “thinking”, never ending but an interesting deed, might be so much meaningful.