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Messages from where I am living

Written by Mr. Isao Matsukane, a poet with cerebral paralysis and translated by Japanese Society for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities.

It all started from a pure and secret intention, which any human being potentially has, whether or not you have any disability. Actually, it was my first love that encouraged me to write poem on my own for the first time. I was in the forth year at elementary school for the disabled. One day, I made up my mind to give a present to a girl in the junior high school of the same school on her birthday, by writing a poem as a love letter. However I was unable to hold a pencil or write without any help at that time, because I had physical and speech disabilities due to cerebral paralysis. Therefore when I had to write something, I used to ask my teacher or parents to write for me what I said, which took a long time. However, I thought, "At any cost, I must write this poem, a present for a girl I admire so much, all by myself" and looked for something that substituted for a pencil. Then a functional training teacher advised me, "How about an electric typewriter?"

picture of Mr.matsukane typing with his name

Taking that advice enthusiastically, I borrowed an electric typewriter from school and took it back home and tried to type with my fingertips. However at first I could not move my arms as I wanted due to my athetoid movement and I made mistakes again and again. After about a week, I became so tired that I even run a fever. Still I did not give up because I wanted to present my poem to her by all means. So after I recovered, I sat down in front of the typewriter again, just when I heard someone saying somewhere, "Type with your nose!"

As if I had been guided by that voice, I "nose-typed" the poem with my whole heart for the first time in my life. I handed it to her but was completely turned down. Though I hardly remember what I wrote, this "nose-typing", which I invented from a "pure and secret intention", has ever since contributed to expand my possibilities one after another, such as winning a prize in an essay contest, entering university and writing poems. As time went by, a typewriter was replaced by a word processor and then by a personal computer, which is a much more useful partner. Now I have been working as a writer for more than 22years. I sit on a legless chair in my office and "nose-type" the keyboard, which is inclined about 45 degrees from the desk. So far I have written 16 books including 3 collections of poems and pictures in collaboration with famous painters and illustrators. I also keep releasing a number of songs of my own writing. Whatever they are, my messages are always the same. I consistently write the true feelings; joy, anger, sorrow and pleasure, of every human being who lives in various situations. Its starting point was Wataboshi Music Festival I attended by writing a song on my own "honest feelings" when I was 20.

"Wataboshi" organized by "Tanpopo-no-ie" foundation for people with disabilities is a civil concert started in 1975. It is organized by volunteers in various parts of Japan and held in more than 50 places every year. The volunteers write music for poems written by the disabled and these songs are performed in the concert. Every summer, "Wataboshi Music Festival" is held in Nara Prefecture, where Wataboshi was first held. This Festival is a kind of national version of the "Wataboshi" concerts held all over the country. I read the newspaper article in which the organizer invited people to write and send poems for the music festival when I was in the second year in high school. I had already been writing quite a few poems by that time and my friends at school had even wrote music for them, but I had never had an opportunity to introduce them to a number of people I do not know. Therefore when I read about the Festival, I immediately had an inspiration that "There is no way but to enter for the contest!" However, my first poem for the contest did not win any prizes at all, just as the poem I had presented to my first love had been rejected.

A little later, I graduated from the school for the disabled I had attended for 12 years since I entered elementary school and left home to start living by myself in the dormitory at Tsukuba University. The life there was totally different from the one in the school days. I could not eat or change clothes by myself but there was nobody that fully understood my disability and helped me before being asked. Whenever I met somebody, I had to talk in my unclear language using gestures to tell that I needed help. The people I talked to also seemed to be more or less bewildered and be at a loss to see "the disabled" for the first time in their lives. However, when both of us did not get away from such feelings and instead faced each other with firm confidence, we could start a new relationship. Again through this process, my warm feelings gradually developed into love for my classmates, and reached a climax when I wrote a poem for her in one sitting, which is entitled "Ties."

Drops of sweat dripping on my forehead
Can you see them? What are you thinking?
Will you smile to praise my efforts to live?

You and I, sharing the same time
You and I, meeting here by chance
Please promise just one thing
Never show insincere smile
Never show false tears
Never, Never

Please be honest to your heart
To start fostering our strong ties

picture of wataboshi-festivalThis "Ties" won a prize in the fifth Wataboshi Music Festival, and Shinkichi Gotoh of Ohita Prefecture wrote ballad music for it. It aroused sympathy from countless people who gave a big applause. On this occasion, I realized how exciting it was to have my song be winged and fly to tie up so many people's minds. Besides I myself got a precious opportunity to meet a number of people through this song. Now "Ties" has flown both time and distance and is still kept on singing not only in Japan but also all over the world, after it was introduced in the first Asian Wataboshi Music Festival held in Singapore in 1991, which I worked as Chief Executive Committee of Japanese side. Nothing will give the writer like me more pleasure than this, and this pleasure again motivates me and invokes my sense of responsibility to create new works.

Several months ago, when I was watching news program on TV showing the Iraqi people injured by gunfire at the time of war on real time, it suddenly came up to my mind that I was alone in a wheelchair with flat tires, stamping innumerable splinters of glasses scattered all over the roads, being unable to move by myself, covered with blood. The mere thought of it gave me the cold shivers. The fear and sense of crisis urged me at once to sit in front of the keyboards and the message of "Kiss the hand raised into the air" was written.

Fist raised into the air
What are we going to hit?
With fist raised into the air
If we hit someone
We will be called an accomplice in grief
Wounded and bloody
Doomed and gloomy

Countless lives gone into the darkness
Can't you see?
Tears filling from head to foot
Screaming heard all over the world
Before these actually happen. . . . .

Let's punch the air with our fist raised
Shouting out an attack of rage
Have our hatred blown away in the wind
Let's once again return to humankind
Kissing the hand raised into the air

Now, more than anything else, I feel a strong impulse to further deepen my thoughts on how and where people including myself can live as human beings and to express whatever I think and feel in my poetry. As an example, I am going to send my message of "Regaining Humanity" through my original CD, which will be completed for release by the beginning of next year, as well as through the Asia Pacific Wataboshi Music Festival 2005 to be held in Shanghai next autumn. Whenever I have something I would like to tell people at any cost, and whenever I am filled with a sense of responsibility to convey such messages, I believe that I will naturally keep on writing poems and sending messages from wherever I am living at that time.