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Summer 2006, vol 4 no 2

Tanka by Kisaburo Konoshima
newly translated by David Callner

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

 
   

1955

炉火もえ灯さぬ壁に影二つ魔ものの如く揺れ老妻と我
The fireplace glows - on unlit wall two silhouettes
like demons flicker - my aged wife and I
 
   
魔性仏性憎愛喜憂もつれあひ影の夫婦壁におどり炉火燃え熾る
A tangle of evil spirit and Buddha-nature - hatred and love - joy and sorrow
the silhouette couple dances on the wall - the fireplace blazes
 
   
大紐育揺れつうねりつ廻りつつ視界を去りぬ我機雲海を抜く
Great New York swaying and rolling and revolving
disappears from sight - my plane passes through a sea of clouds
 
   
曇るとは天空のものぞと思ひしに足の下なる曇日もあり
I thought cloudiness was of the firmament
but there are cloudy days under foot as well
 
   
我眉に一筋見えし白毛なりいたはらんかなど思ひつつ胡麻髯を剃る
I noticed a thread in my eyebrow - a white hair
"why not treat it kindly?" I muse while shaving my grizzled beard
 
   
松檜空へ空へと伸び競ふ森に跼る岩は苔むし
Pine and white cedar contend higher and higher for the sky
rocks crouch in the forest and cover themselves with moss
 
   
飛沫あげて湖を渡り来る夕立はモーターボートより追ひ足速く
An evening shower sends up spray as it crosses the lake
its pursuit faster than the motor boat
 
   
プレスコンファレンス頭掻きかきアイク殿この無造作を庶民は買ふか
At a press conference Ike scratches and scratches his head
this artlessness - do the people buy it?

(President Eisenhower. D.C.)
 
   
汚夫汚婦等漁臭の中を泳ぎをり公設市場はガード下にて
Dirty men and women are swimming through a stink of rotten fish
under a railroad bridge at the municipal market
 
   
蒔絵太刀この御太刀はき祖先等衣冠をただし咳払などもして
A gold-lacquer sword - our forefathers who girded these noble swords
perfect in their garments and head wear - clearing their throats
 
   
豪華なるアパートなるよ出で来る女どの貌も謙譲など知らぬげに見え
Women leaving their O so splendid apartments
every face looks ignorant of modesty
 
   
口を開け輝く瞳にて跛足の児シャボン玉を追ふ陽に破るる迄
Open-mouthed and glistening eyes the lame child
chases a soap bubble till it bursts in the sun
 
   

1956

増悪こめ擲き潰した蚊の残骸壁に汚点となり夏過ぎんとす
The remains of a mosquito I crushed with hatred
become a smudge on the wall - summer is passing
 
   
忿懣を口笛にせし我癖も今はなくなりぬ入歯となりて
My habit of whistling when irritated
now leaves me - I who have dentures
 
   
子等団欒の圏外におかれ老父我ソッファに臥ねて日本雑誌読む
Left outside my children's happy circle - the aged father
I lie down on the sofa and read a Japanese magazine
 
   
達磨大師の耳にあるやうな長き毛が両耳に生えいよよ老いづく
Long hairs like those in the ears of Daruma
sprout from both of mine - I am decidedly growing older

("Daruma" is the Japanese name for the Indian sage Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism. D.C.)
 
   
地球を巡る二周半足指ながく土ふまず深き我のこの足
Two and a half times around the world
long toes and high arches - these feet of mine
 
   
荊妻とは言ひ得てをかし妻老いて此頃我にとげとげともの言ふ
Funny how I can call her keisai - my wife grows old
and these days speaks sharply to me

(Keisai, 荊妻, is one way to say "my wife", but the first character, , means "thorn". D.C.)
 
   
行人の足取を眺め街に佇つ同じやうでもみな異れば
I stand on the street watching gaits of passersby
all are alike yet each is different
 
   
赤白の思想対立になやむ人間が色さまざまにつつじは作る
Human beings struggling for adverse ideologies of red and white
grow azaleas in many colors
 
   
路端に小岩ぽっつり雨に濡れその艶はすでに春のものなり
Raindrops moisten a stone on the roadside
that gloss already speaks of spring
 
   
雪さへや形をもてば湖に消ゆるたまゆらをたゆたふ如く
Even the snow is endowed with form - dissolving into a lake
one fleeting moment it seems to hesitate
 
   
数十年来の豊作と朗報切りに来る知らず死灰は解消せるにや
Cutting through good news of the best harvest in decades
Is the lethal fallout gone?

(Lethal fallout from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. D.C.)
 
   
エンパイヤビル積木の如く崩れ落つる水爆の日よまぶたに描く
Tumbling down like toy blocks - the Empire State Building
O the day of the hydrogen bomb pictured in my inner eye
 
   
勤労者達疲労は見えても機嫌よく家路は皆たのしきものらし
Though workers look weary they are cheerful
the way home is apparently an enjoyment for all
 
   
這い初めし孫来るといふ丹念に床を潔めて日曜の朝
Told my newly-crawling grandchild will visit
I painstakingly clean the floor a Sunday morning
 
   
柿喰めば小猿の如く頬うごく老醜壁鏡にあり眼を暗に逸らす
Eating a persimmon my cheeks work like a little monkey's
an ugly old man is in the wall mirror - I look obliquely
 
   
吃水深く生産過剰の小麦積み数百の巨船ハドソンに繋留る
Deeply drafted under loads of overproduced wheat
hundreds of large ships make a line down the Hudson
 
   
餓死線上に喘ぐは遠き国の噺過剰農産の処理にアメリカは悩む
Gasping from starvation is a story of far-away nations
America struggles to control agricultural overproduction
 
   
凡庸政治家枢機に拠りて罪大きジョンソンの排日ツールマンの広島
Mediocre politicians' vital state affairs can be enormous crimes
Johnson's Japanophobia - Truman's Hiroshima

(Hiram Johnson - Governor of and Senator from California. D.C.)
 
   
国策の過誤数ある中に広島は人道史上アメリカの国辱
Amongst the many mistakes of state policy
Hiroshima is America's historic national disgrace
 
   
百年後の史家の批判に覚むるなき没義道政治を心から憎む
They ignore condemnation by future historians
I loathe the rejection of moral politics with all my soul
 
   
   
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.