Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
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Spring 2007, vol 5 no 1

Tanka by Kisaburo Konoshima
newly translated by David Callner

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

 
   

1961

灯のささぬ方にとどまりて吸血の針を刺す蚊の陰性を憎む
It lands on my shaded side and pierces me with blood-sucking needle
I hate the mosquito for its depravity
 
   
バカヤローと我呟けば老妻は咎む我が思出になぐ自嘲とは知らで
"Idiot" I mutter - and my aged wife reproaches me
not knowing that I scorn myself over a memory
 
   
周囲みな背の高ければ杉叢に佇つ如くなりラッシュアワーのバス
Everybody around me on the rush hour bus is tall
like standing in a grove of cedars
 
   
偉容堂々体躯は我に勝るとも老いたる貌の大方は醜
Their majestic physiques better mine
yet most of these old faces are ugly
 
   
いつか来る我の不幸に集ふ人等十指を越えじしかも異人種のみ
The people who gather for my death some day
will number fewer than ten with no Japanese
 
   
川向の丘の雑木は裸ながら色にかすみて春やや動く
The hilly copse across the river is bare
while a faint color shows - spring stirs slightly
 
   
帽子おさへ辻よぎる程に風吹けど切る如くならず春やや動く
I hold down my hat to cross a windy intersection
but the wind is not piercing - spring stirs slightly
 
   
マンハッタンの区長は年俸二万弗黒人なりしが涜職に座し
The mayor of Manhattan makes twenty thousand dollars
and though a Negro he is immersed in corruption
 
   
豪壮華麗日に夜をつぎて新た築つビルと罪悪と汚辱とがスピードを競ふ
Magnificent new buildings go up by day and night
vying for speed with crime and disgrace
 
   
ソッファに倚り酒のむ我を真向の鏡に叱る我もあるなり
Opposite the sofa where I lie drinking sake
I scold me from the mirror
 
   
対岸も川も黒一色に暮れはててひときはしるき大空の明星
Dusk dies away - the river and hills are completely black
strikingly brilliant shines the evening star
 
   
まなじりも頬も額も皺だらけ鏡のなかに我が顔を愛す
The brow - the cheeks - by the eyes - all covered with wrinkles
I love my face in the mirror
 
   
キモノ着てひしゃげた小鼻ふくらまし歌ふ乙女に好感を持つ
I feel goodwill for the singing maiden
in kimono with flat nostrils bulging
 
   

1962

足音におびえしものか八重のばら地上へ白くごっそりと崩れ
Frightened by the sound of my footsteps? - a double rose
falls to the ground whitely
 
   
崩れ落ちし花をまたぎて手を伸し半開のばらバッチリと剪る
Straddling the fallen flower I reach down
and snip off a half-open rosebud
 
   
ふはふはと風にあふられ灰白の老蝶一つ土塊にすがる
Flimsy - overwhelmed by the breeze
an ashen old butterfly clings to a lump of dirt
 
   
梅干一つとぶ漬少し海苔一枚一合の晩酌に合掌申す
For one pickled plum - a few pickled fish - one piece of laver
and one cup of sake I join my hands in prayer
 
   
不摂生になにか魅力ある夏今宵ビール飲み酒を飲みウイスキーをのみ
There is charm in immoderation this summer night
I drink beer - I drink sake - I drink whiskey
 
   
形だけは昔のままの我が男根湯槽にふっと変遷を思ふ
My penis remains as before in appearance alone
I reflect on life's vicissitudes in the bathtub
 
   
ドッコイショ南無阿彌陀仏と声かけて寝床に入るこの頃の我が癖
With a grunt and an invocation
this is how I get into bed now
 
   
屋根なかば墜ち壁は傾き窓破れ木立小暗く鬼気迫る廃屋
Roof half fallen - walls caving in - windows broken
in dusky grove stands a ghastly house
 
   
我が影も五色の虹を笠にかむり陽に耀よへり露の草原
My shadow wears a five-colored rainbow hat
the dewy grassland gleams in the sun
 
   
草原の草の底にも小径みえ野鼠ゆききする道といふなり
Little paths run beneath the grassland weeds
I hear these are where field mice come and go
 
   
迎合せずひたすらなれと歌に祈る紅葉散りしくバルコニーにたち
"Be earnest and do not flatter yourself" - I pray to poetry
on a balcony strewn with autumn leaves
 
   
日本よりの塵と思へば丹念に掃きためて見ぬ小包を解き
"This dust is from Japan" - I carefully sweep it together
while unwrapping a parcel
 
   
滅亡といふ言葉を思ひ今宵また我客観の遊戯にふける
I ponder the word "ruin" and this evening
once again abandon myself to objective amusement
 
   
人類絶滅の灰も所詮は宿業と悟るには早し世論よ起れ
"The ashes of mankind's destruction are karmic reward"
we still have time - arise O Public Opinion!
 
   
相克は滅亡への道人おのおのまづ自が歩む途を検べよ
Strife is the road to ruin
now of your own road - be sure
 
   
智にすぎて智に滅ぶるか人類よ巨大にすぎてマンモスは既に亡ぶ
The mammoths perished for excess enormity
O mankind - will you perish for an excess of knowledge?
 
   
滅ぶというきびしさを思へ人類もそのきびしさの外にあり得ず
Ponder the harsh reality called "ruin"
mankind too must come to ruin
 
   
潮退けば浮氷はとみにひしめきて聞えぬ音をたて海へなだるる
Floating ice suddenly jostles at low tide
then surges inaudibly towards the sea
 
   

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.