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Spring 2008, vol 6 no 1
 

Tanka by Kisaburo Konoshima
newly translated by David Callner*

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

 
   
1966  
手放しに泣けぬ我が性うとみ思ふつくり笑ひに弔客を見送り
My nature of being unable to cry openly I find odious
with feigned smile I see the mourners away
 
   
弔客去りて拭ふ瞼にまざまざとまたも顕ち来る亡孫の貌々
The mourners leave - I wipe my eyes and once again
the faces of my lamented grandchildren vividly appear
 
   
小さき着物と玩具を山と愛孫等は遺して逝けり爺泣かすべく
Piles of little clothing and playthings - my beloved grandchildren
leave them behind and pass away - they make an old man weep
 
   
春の夜を長しとかこつ我となりぬ愛孫兄妹を災火に奪られ
I become one who repines how spring nights are long
my beloved grandson and granddaughter are taken away by a fire
 
   
年頃も後姿も亡孫に似たり足を早めて振りかへりみる
In age and in appearance from behind he resembles my lamented grandchild
I quicken my steps - turn round and look
 
   
星空にひときはしろく線曳きて流星は消えぬ示唆の如くに
Drawing a remarkably white line in the starry sky
a shooting star vanishes as though an intimation
 
   
雨雲をはだらはだらに水に宿しハドソンは今夕潮に淀む
Covered in a dappling of rain clouds
the Hudson is sluggish with the evening tide
 
   
せせらぎに和する雨の音限界に燈二つ見え山黒く峙つ
The sound of the rain blends into a murmuring stream
I see two lights in the distance - mountains rise blackly
 
   
忌明けを窓辺に佇てばいつしかにハドソンの連丘春を萌せり
The period of mourning ended I linger by my window
spring has stolen over the Hudson
 
   
楓の花が黄緑く散り布く雨の舗道ためらひながら老躯を運ぶ
Maple flowers lie scattered yellow-green across the rainy pavement
tentatively I move my old bones
 
   
自家製の塩鮭にくむビールうまし五十余年の舌の郷愁
Hand cured salmon delicious with my beer
a fifty-year nostalgia on my palate
 
   
魚といへば鯡塩鮭塩鰯北濃の僻村冬ながかりき
Of fish - herring - salted salmon - salted sardines
winters were long in a remote village of Kitano

(Konoshima's native village, Yamato-mura, was in an area called Kitano, in Gifu Prefecture. D.C.)
 
   
企画など立てしことなき我なりきまた訪日の旅を思ひたつ
I was a man who made no plans
now why not visit Japan again?
 
   
東亜共栄に踊りし民の裔にして今また反帝の標語に踊る
Their ancestors danced for East Asian prosperity
the people dance again to anti-imperialistic slogans
 
   
瓶に挿す野花に細く糸垂れて一センチ程の毛虫が縋る
A thread dangles from wild flowers standing in a bottle
there clings a caterpillar one centimeter long
 
   
夕焼の雲赤々と水に宿しハドソンの大河不気味に黙す
Sunset clouds lie brightly on the water
the great Hudson remains ominously silent
 
   
夕映えの空縦横にうすく濃くゼットの曵雲が画く雄渾
Here thin here thick across the glowing evening sky
a vapor trail - a stroke of the sublime
 
   
頑なに水も肥料もしりぞけて鉢のカクタス育つこともなく
Stubbornly resisting water and fertilizer
the potted cactus does not grow
 
   
医者二人看護婦三人ものものしく豆粒の顔疣切り除く
Two doctors and three nurses elaborately
cut a pea-sized wart from my face
 
   
もくもくと終日黒き煙吐く煙突を憎み見る炎暑に耐へて
A chimney spews volumes of black smoke all day
I watch with hatred and suffer the summer heat
 
   
自我のみがはびこる世相にてエヤーストライキ月余に及ぶ
In a time when selfishness alone is dominant
airline strikes exceed one month
 
   
電話器大のスイッチ一つ故障して東部八州黒暗となり
One switch fails in the telephone system
eight eastern states turn pitch black
 
   
車とまり灯は消えぬ地下鉄の暗はさまざまに妄想をうむ
The train stops and the lights go out
the subway darkness gives birth to myriad fancies
 
   
地の底の暗はくらやみ思はざる迫力を持てり真のくらやみ
The dark - darkness in the depths of the earth
what force this utter darkness holds!
 
   
子等を育て孫いつくしみて五十年老妻はなほも腰屈げて働く
Fifty years raising our children and loving to our grandchildren
with bent back my aged wife toils on
 
   
谷いっぱい色に溢れてもみぢ映え秋陽惜みなく山峡にそそぐ
The entire valley brimming with colors - maples shine
an autumn sun pours bounteously down
 
   
どの枝のどの葉落つとも分たねど梢はいつかさびさびとして
I cannot tell which leaves have fallen from which branches
yet the treetop looks chastened
 
   
戯れに蹴りし石ころ水に落ち音たてて沈みぬ泡一つ浮く
A pebble I fancied to kick drops into the water
and sinks with a sound - one bubble rises
 
   
1967  
旭日大綬章を古物店頭に見し戦後ありき春の叙勲の記事に憶ふ
Reading the Spring Awards I recall
just after the war - a Japanese medal of honor in an antique shop window

(A newspaper or magazine article on awards conferred by the Japanese government every spring and autumn - the medal referred to here is The Order of the Rising Sun, 1st Class, a decoration civilian or military. D.C.)
 
   
背後の足音にも前行く人の挙動にも気を配りつつ歩む巷の夜更
Footsteps behind and people ahead
on guard I walk a late-night street
 
   
憧れの大都紐育空に向ひて歩けば直に犬糞に辷り
Look at the sky in the renowned great city New York
and you soon slip in dog shit
 
   
犬が土を蹴りし爪跡黒く残り公園のベンチに春の陽にぶく
Black claw marks remain where a dog scratched at the ground
the spring sun shines dimly on a park bench
 
   
英露首相の和平斡旋に微光みえ反戦日本の株価暴落す
A glimmer for peace mediation between British and Russian premiers
and pacifist Japan's stock market crashes
 
   
英露首相の和平斡旋に微光みえ好戦国米の株価は騰り
A glimmer for peace mediation between British and Russian premiers
and jingoistic America's stock market rises
 
   
新聞も雑誌も好きな記事だけよみ世を嘲ひ自らを嗤ふ
Reading what newspaper and magazine articles I please
I deride the world - then sneer at myself
 
   
山裾に段々築き建つ農家どの家も庭に紫苑を咲かせ(郷里)
Farmhouses rise on terraced foothills
asters blooming in every garden
                                          (My birthplace)
 
   
構内にコスモス咲かせ下ノ庄名にふさはしき奈良路の小駅
Cosmos flowers blossom in Shimo no Shou
a fittingly named little station on the Nara Way

(Shimo no Shou is a designation from ancient Japan that sounds rustic to the Japanese ear. D.C.)
 
   
幾年をあはずもあり友の真情変らぬは富士の姿のみかは
The true feelings of a friend after many years away
does Mount Fuji alone remain unchanging?
 
   
老三人友の墓辺に額けば苔を揺りて秋の風吹く
Three old men bow deeply by their friend's grave
the moss trembles in an autumn wind
 
   
皺いくつたがひの顔にかぞへつつまたも会はんと手をば握れる
Counting the wrinkles on each other's face
"Why not meet again?" - O we grasp hands!
 
   
広き厚き緑葉繁るホノルルは夜雨もひときは音高く降る
Honolulu - luxuriant with large thick leaves
the night rain is remarkably loud
 
   
驚きの声を放ちぬ窓開けて今朝見る雨后の花の艶けさ(ホノルル)
Opening my window this morning I cry out in wonder
the luster of flowers after a rain
                                           (Honolulu)
 
   
ほがらかに暁告ぐる地鶏の声幻聴にきくハドソン河畔
A rooster gaily proclaims the dawn
hallucination along the Hudson?
 
   
一万哩空運ばれて山椒の実大地に着けば溌剌と芽ぐむ
Japanese pepper seeds carried ten thousand miles by plane
taking root they sprout forth vigorously
 
   
日米英伊伯に及び我が族はびこり住みて今や新世紀に挑む
My family spreads from Japan to America England Italy and Brazil
braving the new century
 
   
宇宙はわが住家なるぞと言揚げて世紀に挑め我が子我が孫
Proclaim the universe to be your residence
and brave the century O my children and grandchildren!
 
   
百年来の気温異常とラデオ言ひ濃霧終日ハドソンを閉ざす
The most extreme temperatures in one hundred years says the radio
dense fog locks the Hudson morning till night
 
   
靴脱ぎて卓を殴きしはクルスチョフコスイギンはありたけの愛嬌をふりまき
Khruschev took off his shoe and pounded the table
Kosygin lavishes any and every kind of charm
 
   
白刀に陽をはじかせてハドソンの浮氷は暫し流れに抗す(上潮)
Swords drawn the Hudson ice drives back the sun
and for a time defies the current
                                          (High tide)
 
   
潮退けば敗軍さながらにハドソンの浮氷は犇きて海になだるる
The tide ebbs and as though a vanquished army
the Hudson ice jostles then swarms out to sea
 
   
不慮死せる孫等の逝きて早一年テテッポッポと山鳩がなく
One year already since my grandchildren's sudden death
Turr turr - koo kooroo the turtledove sings
 
   

*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

 
   

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.