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Autumn 2009, vol 7 no 3
 

Tanka by Kisaburo Konoshima
newly translated by David Callner*

This is the sixteenth in a series of new translations of selected tanka by Kisaburo Konoshima
(1893-1984).

 
   
1974  
空の碧海の蒼とが合ふところ船一つ光り入道雲がたつ(ホノルル)
Where jade sky joins azure sea
a single boat shines beneath cumulonimbi        (Honolulu)
 
   
襲雨の去来頻繁にして洋はかすみ街をまたぎて虹二つ立つ
The ocean blurs behind recurring showers
two rainbows straddle the town
 
   
山より出て街を洗ひて沖に去る驟雨は老の憂さをも洗ふ
Cleansing the town from the hills then departing off to sea
the showers wash away this old man's melancholy
 
   
四辺みな噪音絶えて丘の家窓外の葉摺さやさやと聞こゆ
All noise surrounding my house on the hill dies away
leaves whisper from the window
 
   
広葉うつ雨に目覚める故国なる芦屋の雨を思出に聞く
Awakened by rain pattering the broad leaves
I listen in remembrance to the Ashiya rain from my native country

(Ashiya is a city in Hyogo prefecture, Japan.)
 
   
重畳と山に囲こまれ出口さへなきかとも見ゆ故郷八幡
Enclosed by mountains rising one over another
as though with no way out - my native Hachiman

(Hachiman, in Gifu prefecture, was the city closest to the village called Nishikawa-mura, where Konoshima was born.)
 
   
姪が呉れし鮎のうるかをなつかしみ十有余年の禁酒をやぶる
With sweetfish uruka from my niece comes nostalgia
I break a ten-year abstinence

(Uruka is a preparation of the internal organs of ayu, or sweetfish, preserved in salt.)
 
   
病院の窓より見ゆる椰子の巨葉豪雨を浴びてフラダンス踊る
Outside the hospital window gigantic palm leaves
do a hula dance beneath a downpour
 
   
誰人か時めく人の病むならん麗花珍葉病室をかこむ
Someone famous must be ill
beautiful flowers and exotic plants surround a sickroom
 
   
津波さながらどつと押寄せ日本客市場の雑貨残らずさらふ
A tidal wave of Japanese tourists surges in
and everything in the marketplace is swept away
 
   
観光に来て日本人買ふは塵紙観光動物の新語生れん
Japanese come to sightsee - and they buy toilet paper
a new expression - "The Sightseeing Animal" - is born

(Both Hawaii and Japan suffered a shortage of toilet paper due to panic buying and hoarding related to the 1973-74 oil crisis.)
 
   
ウイリアムペンの侍医の名を採りウエーンウッドと名付してふ丘に鉄札は古り
Wynnewood - after William Penn's physician
on the hill thus named an iron sign is old

(Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, is a suburban community outside of Philadelphia named after William Penn's physician, Dr. Thomas Wynne. Konoshima lived in Wynnewood with his youngest daughter's family, wintering in Hawaii, from 1972.)
 
   
ウイリアムペンも仰ぎ眺めし大樹ならんヒ府の郊外に株朽ちて残る
Perhaps William Penn raised his head to gaze at this huge tree
in a Philadelphia suburb the decaying trunk remains
 
   
春を芽吹く緑の森を鏤彩めてドックウッドと藤つつじ咲く
Adorning the forest where spring buds green
dogwood and rhododendron bloom
 
   
五千哩はるばる訪ひ来し娘をねぎらひ菜園の稔あれこれと選ぶ
My daughter travels five thousand miles to visit
I reward her with choices from my ripe vegetable garden
 
   
夕されば鹿も狐もたぬきまで庭を彷徨し示威運動をなす
As evening wears on deer and fox and raccoon
roam about my garden - holding a demonstration
 
   
野蕨も移植せんかな庭のコーナー故山を偲ぶよすがともならん
Maybe I'll plant wild bracken in the corner of my garden
to remind me of my native home
 
   
釣れでよし釣れてなほよし息子と並びシェルター島の玉砂利に坐る
No fish is fine - a catch even better
I sit by my son on the pebbles of Shelter Island

(Shelter Island, New York.)
 
   
裨益せず損傷もせで世を生くる子等の凡庸ありがたくぞ思ふ
They live in the world without profit or harm
how grateful I am that my children are ordinary
 
   
親に勝り子等夫々の世にたてり感謝の祈り惜しみなく捧ぐ
My children all surpass their parents and rise up in the world
I offer prayers of gratitude with all my heart
 
   
新パンツの臀に継あて裾を破り若人の流行われは解しかね
Patches on the rear of new pants with torn cuffs
young people's fashion is beyond me
 
   
襤褸弊衣を殊更衒ひ若人は偏れる世相に抗せんとするか
Young men flaunt shabby worn-out clothes
Are you rebelling against society?
 
   
弊衣乱髪汗の悪臭をまき散らし我等もあらがひき明治の世相
Shabby clothes - unkempt hair - stinking of sweat
we too rebelled in Meiji society

(The Meiji era - 1868 to 1912.)
 
   
暴利をむさぼる企業と政治の結託と石油危機を評ふ人のあり
Profiteering - a conspiracy between government and corporations
some say this is the oil crisis
 
   
野獣野鳥の住家をなせし大自然人間が侵害して別野を造る
Mother Nature - the home of wild birds and beasts
violated by man to create a different wilderness
 
   
道義頽れ金権のみが衍りて正副大統領スキャンダルに挫す
Morality crumbles - financial power alone abounds
the President and Vice President are cut down in scandal
 
   
大統領の汚職をあばき辞任させ民主アメリカの勝利を謳ふ
The President's corruption is exposed and he is forced to resign
praise for the triumph of democratic America
 
   
民主アメリカを謳ふも可なり借問す汚職大統領は誰が選びたる
While extolling democratic America it is fair to ask -
Who elected a corrupt President?
 
   
道義なき政治を世界に指示すべく絶好の標本ウオターゲイトは
To teach the world about government without morality
a perfect example - Watergate
 
   
一時間を越えぬやうにと老妻言ひき侘しくあゆむ秋晴の野路
"Be no more than one hour" - my aged wife tells me
forlorn I walk a country path the fine autumn day
 
   
秋晴の野路たどれば何処でか銃声きこゆ猟期開くらし
I follow a country path the fine autumn day
gun shots - hunting season must have begun
 
   
秋晴の森さやさやと風渡り白樺の黄葉わが肩に落つ
A breeze rustles through woods the fine autumn day
yellow birch leaves fall onto my shoulders
 
   
三行で中絶したる故友の手紙訃報となりて天翔りきぬ
My old friend's letter cuts off after three lines
and becomes a death notice by airmail
 
   
死を予知し最後の別辞書かんとせし友情思ひ押戴きて読む
Knowing he would die he tried to say farewell
I read in friendship and raise my head in reverence
 
   
形見分けを友は意識して居しか去年の別れに呉れたる宝石
Was my friend consciously giving us mementos?
Upon parting last year he gave me a gem
 
   
死期を識り自が戒名を書き遺し生残りの畏友また一人逝く
Aware the end was near he designated his own death-name
another remaining friend passes away

(A kaimyou is a name given posthumously to a deceased person in Japanese Buddhist culture.)
 
   
灯を消せば瞼に甦る友の顔夢につらなり若き日を語る
I put out the light and my friend's visage comes back to me
turns into dreams and speaks of our youth
 
   
僅か二千弗日本円に替へ持てば金持になった錯覚をおぼゆ(帰日して)
Just two thousand dollars changed into yen
gives me the illusion of having become a rich man    (A visit to Japan)
 
   
ひたぶるに歌道に精進む日常故に師は贏ちましぬ九十歳の長寿
Because she earnestly devotes every day to poetry
my teacher lives to the ripe old age of ninety

(Mitsuko Shiga, 1885~1976, was married to the poet Mizuho Ota and collaborated with his literary magazine, Cho-on, the quarterly that published Konoshima's entire opus from 1950 to 1984. Shiga was also a selector of the verses submitted for the New Year's Poetry Reading at the Imperial Palace. Anthologies of her poetry include Fuji no Mi - "Wisteria Beans", Asa Tsuki -"Morning Moon", Asa Ginu -"Linen Silk", and Kamakura Zakki -"Kamakura Miscellany". Shiga also published some instructional guides to the writing of poetry, including Waka dokuhon -"A Guide to Waka Verse", and Dento to Gendai Waka -"Tradition and Modern Waka".)
 
   
鮮紅の小柿たわわになり下る渓谷を辿り新宮に詣づ
Scarlet little persimmons densely dangle
as I walk the valley to visit a new shrine
 
   
焔ともゆる紅葉を縫ひてゆく渓流巌白くたち水碧くよどむ
A mountain stream weaves through flaming autumnal colors
rocks jut white and the blue waters swirl
 
   
飛雪さながらちるすすきの穂車窓をうち葛の紅葉焔とゆらぐ
Scattering eulalia strikes my window like swirling snow
and the autumnal kudzu seems to tremble with flames
 
   

*Readers who have enjoyed this series of tanka translations may now add them to their personal libraries in the perfect bound, 136 page book:

Hudson: A Collection of Tanka by Kisaburo Konoshima
Translated into English by David Callner
Tokyo, Japan: Japan Times, 2005.
ISBN 4-7890-1179-8

 
   

Kisaburo Konoshima Kisaburo Konoshima was born in 1893 in Gifu, Japan. He left his village for an education in Tokyo when he was fifteen years old, and went on to become a professor of political economics at the now defunct Shokumin Gakkou in Kyoto. In 1924 he abandoned academia for the life of a farmer, and emigrated to California with his wife and children. In 1941 Konoshima was forced off his farm and he and his family were interned in the Heart Mountain Relocation Camp in Wyoming. Following the war Konoshima moved to New York City, where he devoted himself to his children's education and his poetry. In 1950 he joined the Japanese poetry society Cho-on, which published his entire opus of over fifteen hundred tanka in the Cho-on quarterly, from 1950 to his death in 1984.


David Callner David Callner was born in 1956. His youth was spent in France, England, Italy, and America. Since 1978 he has lived in Japan. He has written four novels. He teaches English as an adjunct at Nagano University.