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Summer 2008, vol 6 no 2
 

Tanka by Kisaburo Konoshima
newly translated by David Callner*

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

 
   
1968  
生命までも他人任せにし二十五日任せ得ぬものあまた持ちて退院
Having entrusted my very life to others for twenty-five days
I check out from the hospital with all that I could not entrust
 
   
病床に数へてたのしまたあはんと誓ひし日本の老友の顔顔
Bedridden I enjoy thinking of those who promised we would meet again
the faces of my aged friends in Japan
 
   
仁清の鴛の香盒とり出でて病後の冬日独りたのしむ
I set out a mandarin-duck shaped incense case by Ninsei
enjoying a winter day in convalescence alone

(Nonomura Seisuke, or as he is popularly called, Ninsei, was a celebrated 17th century potter. After WWII Konoshima began acquiring what was to become a significant collection of Japanese art and antiques from East-side antique shops in New York City - this collection is now part of the Herbert R. Johnson Museum at Cornell University. D.C.)
 
   
湧きあがる新緑の底慎ましく面も艶かにドックウッドは咲き
In the heart of ebullient spring verdure
maidenly and O so fair the dogwood blossoms
 
   
空と水鮮紅に染めなし落つる陽に対岸の連丘黯黯と延ぶ
Sky and water blush scarlet - in the setting sun
the hills on the opposite shore spread blackly
 
   
落陽を背に黯さ際立つ連丘の麓群灯は見ゆ船泊るらし
Beneath the hills against the falling sun - a remarkable darkness
and a cluster of lights - boats must be spending the night
 
   
風に舞ふ白き羽毛を追ひ喫へ小雀は営営と屋根裏に運ぶ
White plumes in the wind - little sparrows in pursuit
assiduously carry them to a garret
 
   
巣営にいそしむ雀羽艶増し垣根の凍土陽に溶けて光る
Diligently building their nest the sparrows grow in luster
frozen soil along the hedge thaws shining in the sun
 
   
一点の翳りも拒む朝空に白鴎は光るひるがへる時
The morning sky has rejected any speck of shading
a seagull glints with a flutter
 
   
川を渡る初夏の風爽かに白帆点々とハドソンに浮ぶ
A bracing early-summer wind crosses the river
white sails dot the Hudson
 
   
ミニスカート娘等足どりも軽やかに靴音高く舗道にはずむ
Miniskirted young ladies step sprightly
their shoes clacking loudly on the pavement
 
   
「苦学生」誇りに自卑を交ぜ持ちてひたぶるなりき吾明治の青年
"A self-supported student" with pride and a touch of humility
earnest was I - a young man of Meiji
 
   
胸底に癒ゆることなき創疾あり亡孫の噂は妻にも我にもタブー
There are wounds deep in the heart that cannot be healed
talk of our lamented grandchildren is taboo for my wife and for me
 
   
方六尺の土地は老夫婦の墓所なり芝生に仰臥して空眺めみる
A six-foot square plot will be this aged couple's grave
I lie back on the grass and gaze at the sky
 
   
蒼黒く静もる沼に魚跳ねて浮き草をゆり波紋ひろがる
In the stillness of a dark pale swamp jumps a fish
duckweed sways with expanding ripples
 
   
黝き連丘赫くくまどり真夏の陽は落ちはてぬ今日も了りぬ
Pale hills brilliantly tinged
the midsummer sun is setting - thus ends this day too
 
   
「風休まず」我が孝養は薄かりし父母を偲ぶも喜寿近き今
Always on the move my filial devotion was weak
now I lovingly recall my parents as I near my seventy-seventh birthday
 
   
思ひあがり独りよがりの狂者ありて毎に乱さるる社会の秩序
There are big-headed smug maniacs
and social order is thrown into disarray
 
   
政権の餓鬼も交へてアトランタに名士数多集れリ今年は選挙
Brats from the regime along with many notables
assemble in Atlanta - this is an election year
 
   
孫の頭房房と撫でつまさに来るアトム時代のきびしさに祈る
As I stroke my grandchild's wealth of hair
I pray over the impending severity of the atomic age
 
   
今日で今年の夏も終るとラヂオ言ふ落陽を惜み窓の辺に佇つ
Summer ends today says the radio
I linger by my window to begrudge the setting sun
 
   
夏の最終落陽を我も招かむか又来ん夏の期し難ければ
Does the summer's final sunset beckon me?
Will summer come again?
 
   
大根菜葉の鉢植並ぶバルコニーは土恋ふ我のせめてもの菜園
A balcony lined with pots of daikon greens
the best I can do for a garden - I who love the soil
 
   
丘の裾あさなあさなを霧纏きて病葉一つ途に濡れたり
Morning after morning the foot of the hill is veiled in fog
a single withered leaf lies glistening on the road
 
   
保護収容所牛羊と戯ぶインディアン日本の子等と似た貌をして
At play with cows and sheep - Indian children on a reservation
their faces resemble Japanese
 
   
湖を廻る雑木の林色にかすみ跳魚水にこだまして後静寂
Surrounding a lake the forest is veiled in color
a fish jumps and echoes across the water - then all is still
 
   
博覧会には亦日本への我が企劃世相に忸怩たり昨今の時報
"The times are shameful" is the news of late
but news of the Expo becomes an excuse to visit Japan

(Perhaps the 1970 World's Fair, held in Osaka. D.C.)
 
   
労りを口実にして今冬はホノルルでなどと吾妻を誘ふ
Feigning concern
I urge my wife to winter in Honolulu

(Concern for his wife's health over the New York winter, while in truth travel itself was very hard on a frail Mrs. Konoshima - Konoshima simply wanted to visit Hawaii. D.C.)
 
   
1969  
古鏡刀剣鍔も漆器も夫夫に子等さながらの愛着をおぼえ
Antique mirrors - swords - swordguards - and lacquerware
to each I acquire an affection as though to my children
 
   
いよいよ祖国へつれ帰るぞと刀に語り愛蔵の国俊丹念に拭ふ
"At long last I take you home"
with loving care I clean my treasured Kunitoshi

(Rai Kunitoshi was among the most famous swordsmiths of the late thirteenth to early fourteenth centuries - one sword in Konoshima's art collection was a Kunitoshi that Konoshima presented to a museum in Japan. D.C.)
 
   
緑おほふ街の彼方に陽をはじきまぶしく光るワイキキの浜
Beyond the green-veiled town
reflecting the sun and shining dazzlingly - Waikiki beach
 
   
巨大なる銀盤の如く陽に光る海上はるか船小さく航く
Shining in the sun like an enormous silver plate
the sea - a ship sails tinily in the offing
 
   
動くとも見えざりし船いつしかに水平線に消えぬ暮れ残る海
Before I know it a ship that seemed motionless
vanishes over the horizon - night falls on the sea
 
   
限られし一日の生命いとほしみ花いっぱいに木槿は開く
Limited to a single day of life
the rose of Sharon lovingly blossoms to its full
 
   
色も香もいとめでたきプルメリア純白の葉液は毒含むとか
The plumeria - auspicious in color and fragrance
I hear its axillae are poison
 
   
首の痛くなる迄眺めゐたりけり何一つなき大空の紺碧
I have gazed till my neck hurts
not a thing in the deep azure sky
 
   
滞留月余ホノルル色に稍焼けて丈夫さうなと人我に言ふ
After one month and tanned a somewhat Honolulu color
people tell me I look hale
 
   
地上には黒雨渦きしが上空を翔けり見下すは終日白雲のみなり
From below there was black rain swirling
from above - nothing but white clouds all day
 
   
何処ぞ名所に案内せんといふ歌友に東慶寺こそと躊躇なくねだる
"Why don't I take you to someplace of note?" - offers my friend in poetry
indeed Toukeiji I press without hesitation

(Toukeiji, a temple in Kamakura, is nicknamed Kakekomidera - "The Run-For-Shelter Temple" - from the Kamakura period [1185-1382] when it served as a shelter for abused women. Toukeiji is also renowned for its beautiful cemetery where many famous poets, artists, and philosophers are interred. Mitsuko Shiga, poet and contemporary of Konoshima in the Kamakura poetry society Cho-On, is the "friend in poetry" D.C.)
 
   
墓参了へ帰る老師の御腕を胸熱く抱へ階段を降る
Descending the steps from a visit to the cemetery
my heart full I support the aged poet by her arm
 
   
雑草の中に咲きたる小さき花我が歩を停む故郷の道
Tiny flowers blossoming amongst the weeds
stop me in my tracks - a path in my native village
 
   
車窓より手折る山吹ほろほろと露にこぼれて北濃の桟道
I reach out the car window and break off some kerria
it scatters and drops with dew - a plank road in Kitano

(Konoshima's native village, Yamato-mura, was in an area called Kitano, in Gifu Prefecture. D.C.)
 
   
遠足の園児まるまると頬紅く栄養は満点なりよき恋も芽ぐめ
Kindergartners on a field trip red-cheeked plump and well-nourished
bless yourselves one day with love
 
   
あまさかる一万哩ハドソンの野にも祖国の七草は咲き
Ten thousand miles from my native land
I find The Seven Herbs by the Hudson

(Commonly in Japan "The Seven Herbs of Spring" are turnip, shepherd's purse, daikon, chickweed, Japanese parsley, cudweed, and henbit, and "The Seven Herbs of Autumn" are bush clover, miscanthus, kudzu, large pink, yellow flowered valerian, boneset, and Chinese bellflower. D.C.)
 
   
それぞれに形整え然も乱る雑草の穂立美美と見る
Each fixed in its respective shape yet disheveled
weed spikes are resplendent
 
   
不快テレビぱつちと断れば饒舌の頬殴りつけし快感が湧き
I snap off the offensive television and a feeling of pleasure arises
as if I had punched that prating mouth
 
   
アメリカに喜寿を迎へて古里に母と拝みし星空を恋ふ
Attaining Kiju in America I yearn for my native village
and the starry sky I once loved to watch with my mother

(One's seventy-seventh birthday, Kiju, is considered an auspicious event in Japan. D.C.)
 
   
星も濁る都塵に老いて今ぞ恋ふ母と拝みし星空の冴え
Even the stars are roiled in the smoke and dust of the city
O this old man yearns for the starry brilliance he once loved to watch with his mother
 
   
樺の幹いよいよ白し紅葉せる森を斜に陽の透し来て
The birches are ever whiter
as sunlight filters obliquely into the autumnal forest
 
   
木々それぞれの色に照り映え雑木の林は秋の多彩を誇る
Each tree glows with its own hue
the forest vaunting autumn's colory
 
   
天を指す梢微動かず霜に光り皎月暁の疎林にかかる
Motionless treetops point to the heavens - shining on the frost
the white moon sits beyond a sparse wood at daybreak
 
   

*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.