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Autumn 2008, vol 6 no 3
 

Tanka by Kisaburo Konoshima
newly translated by David Callner*

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

 
   
1970  
喜寿の元旦亡孫等と共に祝はむと積雪を冒し墓に詣づる
Why not celebrate my seventy-seventh New Year's Day with my lamented grandchildren?
despite a snowfall I pay a visit to their grave
 
   
雪晴の墓地清浄に陽をはじき風たつ毎に雪渦走る
A fine day after snow - the cemetery reflects the sun in purity
with each gust snow swirls up and glides
 
   
老いの手に雪を丸めてなげてみぬ亡孫等も雪は喜びしもの
In this old man's hands I pack some snow and fling it
for my lamented grandchildren too snow was a thing of joy
 
   
さらさらと旋風に吹きまく粉雪は握りあぐむも老い萎む掌に
Swept lightly in the whirling wind - a powdery snow
I grow weary of packing it in my shriveled old hands
 
   
家を焼かれ乳呑子抱き逃げ惑ふベトナムの母に新年を祈る
Her home burning she flees clutching her baby
I pray to the New Year for the mothers of Vietnam
 
   
幾十万の若き命を犠牲に南北のベトナムなにをか贏ちし
Hundreds of thousands of young lives sacrificed
North and South Vietnam - O what is "Victory"?
 
   
五万に及ぶ若き命を犠牲にアメリカは贏得たり世界の不評
Fifty thousand young lives sacrificed
and America wins universal disgrace
 
   
一年に四千余回の時限爆破ルートさへも究め得ぬ文明の国
Four thousand time bombings in one year
even their origin remains unclear - a "civilized nation"

(Perhaps this refers to the activities of The Weathermen, also known as the Weather Underground Organization. D.C.)
 
   
昨日も今日もと時限の爆破随所に起り自由国アメリカに寧日はなく
Yesterday and again today time bombs explode everywhere
there are no days of peace in this free nation America
 
   
放火掠奪限爆弾ハイジャック自由民主国の明日を疑ふ
Arson - looting - time bombings - hijackings
one questions the future of this free democracy
 
   
月面に人間を歩かしむる慧智もてど時限爆弾の機密は解明ず
We possess the understanding to send a man to the moon
yet the mystery of the time bombings remains unsolved
 
   
米ソ素よりアジアアフリカの小国まで軍力の均衡に倚る世界の平和
From America and Russia to the lesser nations of Asia and Africa
world peace hinges on a balance of military power
 
   
軍力の遅怠は即ち国の破綻軍備の競争に終点はなく
The indolence of military power - to wit the bankruptcy of nations
an arms race has no end
 
   
人類解放の空虚なる標語かかげ持ち愚かにも描く現実の修羅
Empty slogans for "the liberation of mankind"
asinine portraits of real carnage
 
   
独立も解放もなきは人間の宿業縛より縛へ縄替るのみ
Human karma is without independence or freedom
from captivity to captivity only the shackles change
 
   
野心のみその器にあらぬリーダーの禍は蓋し随所に生じ
Unfit leaders with nothing but ambition
give rise to calamity at every turn
 
   
科学万能を率ゆるに足る哲士なく破壊への途を人類は辿る
With no philosophers to guide almighty science
mankind follows a path to destruction
 
   
息等の休暇子犬と猫を托されて留守しつつ又亡孫を偲ぶ
Entrusted with my children's puppy and cat this holiday
I think of my lamented grandchildren
 
   
時刻来れば靴くはへ来る怜悧さに呟きつつも子犬連れ出す
At the hour it brings my shoe in mouth
"How clever" - I mutter and take the puppy for a walk
 
   
執拗に路傍に跼る黒い雪寒月をはじきてらてらと燿る
Blackened snow squats intractably on the roadside
it reflects the moon and gleams with lustre
 
   
日系の校長補佐に黒白二人副校長を持つ紐育の高校
The Japanese-American principal has two vice principals
one black and one white - a New York high school

(Konoshima's second son, Isaku Konoshima, was principal of the Isaac E. Young Middle School, in New Rochelle, New York. D.C.)
 
   
思想教養人種慣習多様にて問題多きアメリカの社会
Diverse in ideology culture race and custom
problems abound - American society
 
   
黒白銅黄あらゆる人種雑然と富める国アメリカ宿命を負ふ
A jumble of all races black white brown and yellow
the rich country America bears this lot
 
   
病院へ急ぐ車中の深き沈黙ほぐさんと車窓の景色など賞め
Rushing to the hospital a heavy silence fills the car
I try to praise the scenery
 
   
七十年は飛躍の年ぞなど戯れつ室内を跳び歩く松葉杖にて
Nineteen seventy is a year for leaps and bounds!
I prance about on my crutches in caprice
 
   
動物園の老カンガルーさながらに冬陽もとめて室跳びあるく
Like an aged kangaroo in a zoo
I hop about my room after the winter sun
 
   
厳冬を堪へ来し生命驚喜して陽のさす窓に蠅は手をもむ
Pleasantly surprised to live through the harsh winter
a fly rubs its hands in the sunlit window
 
   
顧みる二十年のあゆみ遅々として雲にはるけし我が歌の行手
My twenty-year pace has been sluggish
my poetic ideal remains far off in the clouds
 
   
天道は窮り無しと学びしが歌道にも亦はてしなからん
I was taught that Providence has no bounds
Poetry too seems infinite
 
   
劫初より虫けらを経て我に繋がる生命の不思議しみじみ想ふ
From bugs of The Great Beginning to me
the wonders of life
 
   
功ならず名の富も得ずさればこそ老いてかち得たり心の和平
Neither successful nor wealthy
I thus find peace of mind with age
 
   
霜柱白く崩れて土ひかる垣の日向に春忍びよる
The soil shines with whitely crumbling frost
spring steals closer beneath the sunny hedge
 
   
月見草だけいっぱいに咲かせ狭き園 家も小さし誰人か住む
A small garden filled with evening primrose
the house too is little - who lives here?
 
   
赫赫と陽は落ちはてて連丘黒く川面を亘し橋灯きらめく
The sun falls away brilliantly - the hills turn black
bridge lights stream glistening across the river
 
   
一点の塵さへ拒む白菊の白きがうれしまたも来て佇つ
A white chrysanthemum - not one speck
a whiteness so satisfying I come back and linger
 
   
白菊の白きが我の拠りどころ黄も紅も縁遠きもの
The whiteness of a chrysanthemum is basic to my heart
yellow and crimson are alien to me
 
   
プラントも虫諸共に焼き捨てて霜近き空気胸深く吸ふ
I burn my plants with all their bugs
and inhale the frosty air
 
   
夕暮の野面を縫ふて這ふ煙霜枯頃の故郷匂はす
Smoke crawls across the evening fields
touched with frost - the scent of my native home
 
   
世界は我が住家なるぞとアメリカに老いて故郷の生家を懐ふ
"The entire world is my home!" I say
yet this old man yearns for his native Japan
 
   
そそり聳つ崖を覆ひて松楓パリセイドの眺は我が窓のおごり
Pines and maples drape the towering cliffs
The Palisades - luxury in my window
 
   
山峡の小径をゆけば散るもみぢ我が肩をかすめ足にまつはる
Maple leaves scatter onto a path through a glen
caressing my shoulders - dangling about my feet
 
   

Kisaburo Konoshima Kisaburo Konoshima was born in 1893 in Gifu, Japan. He left his village for an education in Tokyo when he was fifteen years old, and went on to become a professor of political economics at the now defunct Shokumin Gakkou in Kyoto. In 1924 he abandoned academia for the life of a farmer, and emigrated to California with his wife and children. In 1941 Konoshima was forced off his farm and he and his family were interned in the Heart Mountain Relocation Camp in Wyoming. Following the war Konoshima moved to New York City, where he devoted himself to his children's education and his poetry. In 1950 he joined the Japanese poetry society Cho-on, which published his entire opus of over fifteen hundred tanka in the Cho-on quarterly, from 1950 to his death in 1984.


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.