Gabriel Chavez Casazola: Koyu Abe plants a sunflower seed in the gardens of the Temple of Genji

(Translated from Spanish by M.J. Fievre)

Abe Koyu, in a harsh black tunic,
head high and shaved
brow furrowed
plants a sunflower seed in the gardens of the Temple of Genji.

Unhurried, he buries the small shell full
of hidden light
of unfolding wonder
in a bowl dug from the Earth.

He covers it with a small shovel
waters it with orange sprinkles.

A breeze runs through the gardens of the Temple of Genji
Abe Koyu feels it on his hands sprayed with water.

In a bag made of fabric and hanging from his lap:
tens, hundreds of seeds.

It is still morning and his task is to plant each of these seeds
and to cover them
and to water them with orange sprinkles.

One million sunflowers should soon carpet the gardens of Genji and the surrounding patches.

Monks, farmers,
all must have hands dampened by the water that irrigates the growing
yellow wonders of children:
these pious lights for exhausted eyes.

Abe Koyu does not know Van Gogh, but he paints sunflowers with his shovel.

On the edge of Fukushima rise the gardens of the Temple of Genji
and it is necessary to purify the heavens, purify the water, purify the soil, purify the Suns,
by the planting of sunflowers.

It is not about aesthetic effect—Abe Koyu speaks in the silence of the image:
the roots absorb the heavy metals
and from the poison a flower is born.

But it is also true that beauty cleanses

says the Dutch, out of the silence of the fabric,
and Abe Koyu hands me a bag of seeds
shells filled with tiny light.

The vibrant orange shower
brings me closer to Van Gogh.



A poet and journalist, Gabriel Chavez Casazola (Bolivia, 1972) is considered “an essential voice of the modern Bolivian and Latin American poetry.” He published several books of poetry in his birth country, including Lugar Común / Common Place (1999), Escalera de Mano / Stepladder (2003), El agua iluminada / Illuminated Water (2010), and La mañana se llenará de jardineros / The Morning will Bring out the Gardeners (2013 in Ecuador; Second Edition in Bolivia, 2014). His work has been anthologized in different countries: Camara de Niebla / Cloud Chamber (El Suri Porfiado, Argentina, 2014), El pie de Eurídice / the Foot of Eurydice (Gamar, Colombia, 2014) and La canción de la sopa / The Soup Song (Ecuador,2014).

Gabriel 2013 a

Part of his work is translated into Italian, Portuguese, English, Greek and Romanian. His poems appears in numerous anthologies and he has read his poetry in various countries. He teaches poetry workshops; he’s a columnist for different Bolivian newspapers and a regular contributor to various international poetry journals. He has also published books  in other genres, including  Historia de la cultura boliviana del siglo XX / A History of 20th Century Bolivian Culture, which received the Best Book Edited in Bolivia Award, in 2009. Gabriel also received the Medal of the Cultural Merit of the Bolivian State. In 2013 he was a finalist for the Premio Mundial de Poesía Mística Fernando Rielo.

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