Two Traveling Together

Translated by Jeffrey Angles

I came to encounter a coyote
I left all sorts of things behind
You couldn’t get on a plane unless you traveled light
Back then there were weight restrictions for planes, they don’t have them any longer, American bodies have no restrictions, they’ve become so big that there aren’t restrictions on the weight of bodies or luggage any more, but back then, I can’t even count how many times I picked up my bags and stepped on the scale, no matter how many times I weighed myself, I still wasn’t the least bit lighter
Not knowing what else to do, I took out my books
Then I took out my clothes
Then I went to the bathroom and defecated
Then I took out more clothes
Then I threw up
Then I took out more books
Then I stripped off all my clothes, held my bag, and stood on the scale, but I wasn’t the least bit lighter
Know what I mean? That’s what it means to go on a trip
That’s what it means to leave the place where you live
Trips and then more trips
There are things you need to carry with you to survive
Not knowing what else to do, I called my husband, filed for divorce, talked to my children and told them Mommy wouldn’t be home for a while, in other words, it was only after I abandoned my relationships, my attachments, and even my language that I was light enough to get on the plane, when I arrived, all I had was a few changes of clothes, some cash, my passport, my visa waiver, my credit cards, and an 
international driver’s license
In California, the sky was blue, there was nothing but seashore, wild land, and housing developments, it was hazy and hard to see in the evenings, it was as if everything was immersed in mother’s milk, my toes got cold, I bought some socks, but after wearing them three days, the cheap things were ready to fall apart, I looked long and hard at them, feeling like a coyote
(Yeah, I tell people I came alone
But that is not entirely true
I was always thinking about the coyote
The two of us traveling together)
I saw dead raccoons
I saw dead skunks
I smelled them too
Someone I met the first day said to me
The whole place smells like skunk, must be a dead one somewhere
It was an unfamiliar scent, but now I know it well
The whole place smells like skunk, must be a dead one somewhere
I know to say that to people now
In any case, I didn’t see
Any coyotes
(Two traveling together)
Someone in the street
Told me to get the hell out of here
Why had I come? I couldn’t find what I wanted, I had come so far but, get the hell out, this isn’t the place where the coyotes are, they’re farther away, in deeper places, where there is nothing, where there is much more emptiness
So I headed east
From the western edge of the continent to the east
The interstates
With odd numbers run north and south
While even numbers run east and west
Those in the 500s are the bypasses for I-5 (north-south)
Those in the 800s are the bypasses for I-8 (east-west)
I took I-5 south to I-580
I went further south to I-8 then went east
East, east, east
And even further east
In Arizona, I took I-17
At Flagstaff, I took US Route 89
I dashed into a roadside motel, slept, and woke
And started driving again
The morning light shone brilliantly
Each time I stopped to fill up with gas, I bought some brownies, each individually wrapped, I tore off the wrappers with one hand and ate them as I drove, the ridiculously sweet lumps stuck to the roof  of my mouth, when I stopped in front of a motel that night, my fingers didn’t want to leave the steering wheel, at the registration desk, the words I needed to say in English didn’t rise to my lips, even though 
I knew them all too well
(Two traveling together)
There was a woman standing at the side of the road, I called out to her in broken English, asking her what was the matter, she answered in what was also broken English
Would you mind taking me to the nearest gas station?
She sat in the passenger’s seat
I’m Navajo
Where are you from?
From California, I answered
No, that’s not what I meant
What tribe are you from? she asked
(Two traveling together)
From Kayenta I took US Route 163 toward Monument Valley
I had heard that coyotes lived there long ago
That it’s an amazing place, the moon rises, the sun sets
I imagined it would be like seeing the ocean
But when I got there, it wasn’t like the ocean at all
Rocks soared into the air
Rocks, rocks, even more rocks
Red rocks
In the dust
I watched the sun set over them
By the time I got back to Route 163, the sun had sunk deep beyond the horizon, the only thing I could see was the road in front of me, 
I drove on looking for a place to sleep, but I didn’t see a thing, there wasn’t anything to see, air rushed through my cracked window, 
letting out a long, thin, high-pitched whistle

Like a reed flute
My thin, hard window was slightly open, the wind rushed in but couldn’t escape

(Two of us heard it)
I drove a long way before spying a large motel, I saw the vacancy sign as I approached, I thought I’d have to drive for hours and hours before finding a place to sleep, I thought I wouldn’t stop, that I’d drive all night without stopping, but the place I found was part of a chain you see in every city, the bed was big and deep, and there was lots of hot water in the tub
(Two of us were there)
The next morning
The car was completely filthy
The whole thing was covered with bright red dirt and sand
The windshield was covered with the splattered bodies of countless insects
No one knew I had slept there, nor that I was leaving, nor which direction I was headed, no one knew
It was a day that invited
Death along the roadside
I hadn’t even driven for five minutes before I saw it —
A single, dead coyote
Lying on its back, legs in the air
(It was both me and
My travel companion, too)

Translated from the  Japanese
More Poems by Hiromi Itō