Four Seasons
The Wonderful World of Japanese Writers of English

Intermediate - Advanced

Here's an essay, story, and poem written originally in English.

"How Can I Reach You?"
by Shimazu Nobuko

Pre-Reading Exercise 1

Reading Without A Dictionary:
Vocabulary Build-Up
The following sentences include words from the poem "How Can I Reach You?" Study them carefully and decide which answer is correct.
Click to find out if you are right or wrong.

1. In 1812 Napoleon invaded Russia, but he was soon retreating because of the cold and the Russians' desire to win.
Retreating means that Napoleon ...
a. devised a new variety of cognac
b. wanted all of the gold in the Kremlin
c. had to go back to where he came from

2. The soldiers climbed the walls of the fortress and killed all the people inside.
Fortress refers to ...
a. a place where people are usually safe from attack
b. a holiday camp in the Himalayas
c. the top floor of a ship

3. The big prison gates closed with a loud clank, which could be heard three kilometers away.
Clank describes ...
a. a second-hand karaoke machine
b. an unpleasant metallic sound
c. a clock that keeps good time

4. Even though Joan of Arc was a woman, she was a great warrior.
Warrior means ...
a. a person who fights battles
b. somebody who cannot live without jazz
c. a teenager on a motorbike

5. Drug smuggling is a profitable, but illegal activity.
Smuggling is ...
a. taking two aspirins and a glass of water for a headache
b. sending medicines through the mail to poor people
c. hiding something to bring into a place where it's forbidden

6. Last night a thief entered my house and stole my girlfriend's photograph.
Thief is a word for ...
a. a person who takes things that are not his
b. someone who thinks it is wrong to pay for things
c. somebody who sleeps in the daytime only

7. When asked why he was in prison, the young man said that he had been caught snatching old ladies' purses.
Snatching means ...
a. grabbing something and trying to run away with it quickly
b. practicing every day for the annual Boston marathon
c. a liking for expensive bags and designer jewelry

8. The young bride is counting on her husband to earn a lot of money.
Counting on is similar to ...
a. an old abacus
b. depending on
c. working out

9. The butler directed the visitor to his master's chambers, where he was writing a book.
Chambers refers to ...
a. rooms
b. doorknobs
c. fields

10. Charles likes to go to Indiana to marvel at the stars under a clear sky.
To marvel at suggests that Charles ...
a. wonders appreciatively about the stars
b. dreams all the time about his wife
c. would like to eat delicious apples

Pre-Reading Exercise 2


Here are 14 words from the poem "How Can I Reach You?" Try and find them, but note that the words read forward, backward, up, down, or at a diagonal. Happy hunting!

1. fortress
2. clank
3. iron
4. warrior
5. smuggling
6. thief
7. snatching
8. halls
9. liquor
10. furniture
11. solid
12. scented
13. sunrays
14. through

Answer Key


How Can I Reach You?
by Shimazu Nobuko

How can I reach you, without you
Retreating into your mind's own fortress,
Closing behind you with a heavy clank
Its cold iron gate?
I'm not an enemy warrior, trying to win
Your head (or your heart),
Attacking the walls of your fortress.
Nor am I a smuggling thief,
Snatching your gold
and your silver,
Counting on the night's liquor, food and women.
All I ask is to let me in, to walk with you
Through the halls and the chambers,
Feeling the curves of all the furniture
And its solid corners,
And to marvel at the sweetly-scented sunrays
Coming in through the windows
That are you eyes.


1. Why is "your mind" in the poem compared to a fortress?

2. Is the speaker of the poem trying to be aggressive?

3. What do you think "a smuggling thief" symbolizes?

4. What is the main message of the poem?

5. Which is your favorite line? Why do you like it?

Shimazu Nobuko was born in Osaka in 1952 and educated at Kobe Jogakuin in Nishinomiya. From 1979 she started teaching, at first part-time in various universities in the Kansai area. She is now a professor of English at a college in Osaka. She says: "Writing in English is a means to liberate myself from the Japanese cultural bindings. Yet it also facilitates a certain reconciliation, a coming to terms with my Japanese-ness."
"How Can I Reach You?" by Shimazu Nobuko is from Four Seasons: An Anthology of Original Writing by Japanese Writers in English edited by John Pereira and the late Prof. Eugene O'Reilly and published in 1984.