Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
Contents Archives About Simply Haiku Submissions Search
Spring 2006, vol 4 no 1

Tanka by Kisaburo Konoshima
newly translated by David Callner

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

 
   

1953

全裸わが隠し所の毛も剃られ盲腸剔出の手術台に仰臥す
Naked - even the hair shaven from my private parts
I lie face up on the operating table for appendix removal
 
   
子を生みて育む不思議駒鳥よ知るや知らずや今年も巣ふ
The marvel of bringing forth and brooding offspring - O robins
are you aware or are you not? - this year you nest again
 
   
バカヤロの言葉とりたてし不信任案國政を弄ぶ輩に憤を感ず
A motion of nonconfidence over the word "idiot"
I feel indignation at those who make sport of government

(In 1953 a motion of nonconfidence was made over an outburst in parliament by Prime Minister Yoshida during which he shouted bakayaro, or "idiot", at a member of the opposition. The motion was passed and Yoshida was forced to dissolve the lower house and hold new elections. D.C.)

 
   
前例なき不信任案ぞとタイムス紙バカヤロ騒ぎを揶揄せり恥かし
An Unprecedented Motion of Nonconfidence! says The Times
I feel shame for the ridiculed uproar over "idiot"
 
   
スカヘリ、スケネクタデー、ホキプシー 都邑の名にのみインデアンは残る
Schoharie - Schenectady - Poughkeepsie
the Indian subsists in names of towns and villages alone
 
   
少年阿修羅眉根にひそむ消ゆるなき久劫の悲嘆人あるかぎり
Latent in the eyebrows of youthful Asura - an undying
vast sorrow - as long as man exists

(I believe Konoshima is referring to the famous statue of Asura in the Koufukuji temple museum in Nara. Asura takes on many forms and meanings, but in Japan Asura is generally a guardian deity of Buddhism. D.C.)

 
   
大空に結晶してより地上までただ降るのみなりこの雪片は
From crystallization in the sky
merely descending to the ground comes this snowflake
 
   
三十年苦闘は果てず誕生日の一杯の酒ぞ神よ許させ給へ
Thirty years of bitter struggles unending
O Lord allow me this one cup of birthday sake
 
   
無始無終時の流の一齣を除夜と名づけあり老妻と黙坐す
One moment in the beginningless and endless current of time
is called "New Year's Eve" - I sit with my aged wife in silence
 
   
かすかなる叫を聞きぬ熱き湯に水呑グラス毀れたる時
I hear a faint cry as I pour hot water
into a glass that breaks
 
   
たたかひの場に果てにし若人のみたまや帰る夏雲の群
Young men who met their end on the field of battle
the spirits of the dead come home - a mass of summer clouds
 
   
老らくの身に消残る情熱の餘炎燃え止まず秋の緋のダリア
The passion that lingers in this old man's body
its cinders cease not to burn - autumn's scarlet dahlia
 
   
執拗に追ひ走りても見たりしがつひに我影は捕へ得ざりき
Obstinately I tried to give chase
but in the end I could not catch my shadow
 
   
我月収日本金にすれば十五萬圓などと思ひてわづかに慰む
In Japanese currency my monthly income becomes one hundred fifty thousand
so fancying I am slightly comforted
 
   

1954

ビキニより遠涯に住む民衆には死灰降るといふも噺にすぎず
For peoples living on shores far from Bikini
the descent of lethal fallout is nothing more than talk

(In 1954 the United States military detonated a series of hydrogen bombs on the Bikini Atoll. D.C.)

 
   
ビキニよりいや遠はてに国民住みて死灰の叫びをヒステリアといふ
A nation living O so far from Bikini
the outcry over lethal fallout is called "hysteria"
 
   
占領国がアメリカなりしこの不幸煩ひはながからんと故国の便り
This misery of American occupation
the agony is long indeed says a news report from my native country
 
   
共産とよび民主といふもうちごもる覚醒なくんば画餅に等し
Called "Communism" - "Democracy" by name
but with no inner awakening equal as naught
 
   
職場を放棄れ野球放送に公務員群ると故国の便り我心暗し
Civil servants abandon their posts to gather for baseball broadcasts
says a news report from my native country - my heart darkens
 
   
真白なる陶の湯槽に小虫落ち這ひ出でんとしては又滑りおつ
A little bug falls into the immaculately white porcelain bathtub
it tries to climb out but slips down again
 
   
街角に押寄せられて黒くなりいつまでも消えぬ雪をネオンは照らす
Pushed onto a street corner and blackened
the never-melting snow is illuminated by neon
 
   
あでやかに降る雪片一つ掌にとれば解けて一片の雫となりぬ
A single snowflake descends gloriously - I catch it in my palm
melted it turns to a drop
 
   
掌にとればたわいなく消ゆる雪なれど大空を暗らめ地を埋みゆく
Snow that melts so easily when caught in my palm
yet dims the sky and buries the earth
 
   
街角に投げ出されて霜に汚れ新春のクリスマスツリーは斜陽の族か
Thrown away on a street corner and dirtied with frost
is the New Year Christmas tree party to the setting sun?
 
   
ハドソンの涯は山々色あせて冬陽はさせど光とはならず
The mountains on the Hudson shore are faded
the winter sun shines down but does not brighten
 
   
土購うて屋上に運びて植ゑし菊黒菊なるらし今朝蕾割る
I purchased soil and carried it to the rooftop - chrysanthemums I grew
appear will be black - this morning the buds come open
 
   
折にふれ幻となり夢となる鎮守の林今ありやなしや
At times a vision at times a dream
the grove in my village shrine - perhaps still there perhaps not
 
   
向山山の頂は天につくと憧れ見しは幾才の頃ぞ
That the peak of Mount Mukai reaches the heavens
at what age did I gaze on in aspiration?

(Mount Mukai is near Konoshima's native village in Gifu Prefecture. D.C.)

 
   
独りゐて物思ふ窓に冬の夜雨ただ雨の音天地はただ雨のみ
A winter night alone by the window where I muse
the sound of rain and rain - heaven and earth are only the rain
 
   
   
Hudson: A Collection of Tanka by Kisaburo Konoshima
Translated into English by David Callner
Tokyo, Japan: Japan Times, 2005.
ISBN 4-7890-1179-8
5.5 x 8.25, perfectbound, 136 pp.
2500 Yen ($25 US).
To purchase, contact David Callner:
davidcallner@hotmail.com
The book is selling in America for $19, shipping included. Payment can be made via Paypal and a copy will be mailed directly to the buyer. Hudson is also on consignment in various Manhattan bookstores and in Japan.
 
   

For additional information about the poet Kisaburo Konoshima, see the review "Konoshima's American Diary" by Michael McClintock, in Simply Haiku v3n3, June 2005.


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, all as yet unpublished. He teaches English as an adjunct at Nagano University.