Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
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Winter 2006, vol 4 no 4

Tanka by Kisaburo Konoshima
newly translated by David Callner

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

 
   

1958

偏見をつねに警戒るる我なれど無恥の徒多き人種をばうとむ
While I always dread prejudice
O I shun the many shameless people of other races
 
   
月を撃ち星を偽造し陽光を汚す人智のはてに戦慄をおぼゆ
Striking the moon - fabricating the stars - tainting the sun
I tremble at the bounds of human knowledge
 
   
力入れて放屁を一つしてみたり世相さまざまに思ひあぐみて
I bear down and let out a fart
grown tired of these diverse times
 
   
慰みに今はつむラズベリー二十年前の我が苺園は欠損続きなりし
Now I pick raspberries as a consolation - twenty years ago
my berry farm constantly lost money
 
   
風吹けば磨れる雨には腐る苺痩する思ひなりき生活に関係れば
When wind drives a rain the strawberries rot
I worried sick for they were my livelihood
 
   
飼ひならされし老犬の如き日々がありハドソンの彼方夕陽は赫く
These days are like an old pet dog
beyond the Hudson the setting sun is radiant
 
   
義歯露に皺ふかく笑む我スマイル嘲けるが如き表情を持ち
My smile - deep wrinkles and obviously false teeth
looks like a sneer
 
   
微苦笑をよろこぶ民族の裔にして我微笑は朗かならず
The wry smile comes from a Japanese sense of tact
thus my smile is not gay
 
   
微笑もて人と語れば真向の鏡の我が我を嘲ける
As I smilingly talk with someone
I sneer at me from the mirror behind him
 
   
天翔らせむ属望の衛星は炎を吹けり地上僅かに数尺にして
A satellite expected to soar through the heavens bursts into flames
a few yards from earth

(In 1960 the United States suffered a number of failures with its Pioneer satellites and the Soviet Union suffered failures with its Luna satellites. D.C.)
 
   
日和見主義の国々環視の衛星失体は真にかりそめならず
A satellite - the focus of attention for opportunistic nations
this fiasco cannot be disregarded
 
   
「最后の絞り喜びし」亡師と知る故になつかしみつつ煎茶絞るいつも
Because my late teacher once said - "I take joy in the last drops"
I always strain tea with nostalgia
 
   
弓矢にて国を争ひてより六百年今や核子にて宇宙覇を競ふ
Six hundred years after nations fought with bows and arrows
they vie in space with nucleons
 
   
窓閉せば大都の噪音はたと絶え絶えて底鳴り尚迫るあり
Close the window - the big city's cacophony is suddenly faint
sound from the depth still rises
 
   

1959

商魂なき環境を希めひたぶるに我は畢竟永遠の巡礼
Aspiring after a world where there is no spirit of commerce
mine is an eternal pilgrimage
 
   
先輩の歌も我が詠む歌も紙一重その紙一重に千里を思ふ
The difference between my tanka and my predecessors' is paper thin
in that difference I feel a thousand miles
 
   
狙ふ眼のありとも識らず稚き小虫自負ある如く壁を上り初む
Unaware that I take aim a young little insect
begins up the wall as though with pride
 
   
警戒を知らぬ稚き小虫を押し潰し暫し心中にこだはりをもつ
Having crushed the incautious little insect
for a time I am filled with qualms
 
   
生きてゐるが負担の如く今日も働く方向を持たぬ動作繰り返し
I live - but I work again today as if life were a burden
aimlessly I go through the same motions
 
   
白氷の岩窟の如くむらだてる雲渡る時機は少し揺れ
Clouds rise in clusters like grottos of white ice
our plane shakes a little when passing over
 
   
骨一握り道具箱肩に洋傘直し秋晴の街を鈴ならしゆく
A toolbox with a bundle of spokes on his shoulder
the umbrella repairer comes ringing his bell the fine autumn day
 
   
やぶだたみ野は霜枯れて小径顕つ野兎にも常の道あるらしく
A little path appears through a hoary thicket of fallen shrubs
it seems jackrabbits have roads too
 
   

1960

朝鮮とトルコに倣ふ東京の学生デモの記事ただ愧しく
Tokyo's student demonstrations copy Korea and Turkey
the news accounts make me ashamed

("Anti-Establishment" student demonstrations broke out in many countries in 1960. D.C.)
 
   
敗戦の友邦、復興の友邦西独のアデナウ首相日本を訪ふ
An ally in defeat and an ally in recovery
West Germany's Chancellor Adenauer visits Japan
 
   
敗けても勝ても生くべき民族は生きかへる時遷りて知る戦争は馬鹿げてゐる
In defeat or in victory people must live and recover
with time war seems stupid
 
   
共に生くるか悉亡るかの岐路にたてり虚勢を捨てて手を握れ民族
At the crossroads of life together or annihilation
peoples - abandon bluster and join hands
 
   
漢字のみ並べて和歌を綴りたる祖先を持てる民外国語を好む
A people whose ancestors wrote poems with kanji
Japanese take delight in foreign languages
 
   
笑はれて頭掻く我近頃頓に物忘れする老とや言はむ
Laughed at I scratch my head - these days I immediately
forget things - could I be old?
 
   
軒端まで雪積む朝は竹薮を隔つ隣家の時計打つ音もきこえ(追憶)
A morning snowfall rises to the eaves - across the bamboo grove
I can hear a clock striking next door          (a memory)
 
   
あかぎれの今宵は特に痛ければ明日も雪ぞと母はつぶやき
When chapping is especially sore come evening
it means snow again tomorrow - mother would whisper
 
   
一個一銭の膏薬代を倹約して生の漆汁をあかぎれにさし
To save money - one penny for one phial of salve
lacquer was dripped on chapped skin
 
   
少年我の造る草履はいつもいつも瓢箪形なりきと兄等は笑ひき
The straw sandals I fashioned as a lad were forever
shaped like gourds - laughed my big brothers
 
   
過去過去過去我とあやまち毀ちたる古瓶の破片接ぎ合せみる
The past - the past - the past - broken accidentally
I try piecing together fragments of an old bottle
 
   
思出はおほむね感傷的我なりき今日の現実に厳しく見入る
I generally become sentimental in reminiscence
today's reality I observe with severity
 
   

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.