Harry Guest

Three People Then Four

Invited to the Embassy of France
in Tôkyô two friends a journalist
who writes such lovely poetry and a man
of many possibilities sat down
with me and three filled glasses to drag back
the world to rights round one small table in
a spacious room with elements that hold
nostalgic hints of Paris and the Loire.

We chatted, drank and in those far-off days
smoked High Right cigarettes and spoke not to
argue for fun but questioned quietly with
lips pursed or lifted brow yet always showed
true understandings from the pleasant past
relieved to be together once again
in such a place
when someone passing stopped
looked at us laughed with a keen interest
not snobbishly but in a sense of warmth.
The journalist asked where’s the joke and smiled.
The laughter stopped, apologised then said
“You’re all good linguists but it’s rather odd
to hear a Frenchman talking English while
an Englishman is speaking Japanese
and one born here chats fluently in French.”

Our jaws dropped, we gazed up at him, looked round
each other and burst out in helpless mirth.
“Sit down” I said and rose. “What language now
would you prefer while I’m away to fetch
what you might want to drink? Wine? Beer? Champagne?”
He gestured at a distant table. “No.
“No, no. Most kind. I’m over there with them.”
I dared to say “I’m Welsh and English, born
in Penarth,” coughed, switched:
“ima watakushi wa
Yokohama kokuritsu daigaku
no kôshi desu.
“I realised” he said
and laughed once more. Joyfully we three joined in.

Trans.: “I’m now a lecturer at Yokohama National University”