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Winter 2008, vol 6 no 4
 

Tanka by Kisaburo Konoshima
newly translated by David Callner*

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

 
   
1971  
雲を抜くロッキー雪嶺下にみて祖国への旅蒼空を翔る
Snow-capped Rockies jut through clouds below
I soar the blue sky to my native land
 
   
一万哩空翔り来て九頭竜のダムのほとりに山独活を掘る
I soar ten thousand miles through the sky
and gather wild udo by the Kuzuryuu dam

(Aralia cordata, known as udo in Japan, is a herbaceous perennial that is prized for its edible stem and leaves. The Kuzuryuu dam is located in the mountains near the border of Gifu and Fukui prefectures. D.C.)
 
   
藤も咲く渓谷に来鳴く鶯の声まだわかし九頭竜の五月
A ravine abloom with wisteria
the song of the bush warbler still young - Kuzuryuu in May
 
   
亡き母と拝みし月の山裾にボギーを駆りて石魚る見ゆ
From foothills where I once gazed at the moon with my mother
I take a bogie to see eel traps

(The Nagara river, near Konoshima's ancestral home in Gifu Prefecture, is renowned for ishitsuri eel traps - large stones set in semicircles against the current. D.C.)
 
   
新幹線憧れの沿道悉く空碧からず海も蒼からず
My coveted Shinkansen trip is utterly
without azure sky or blue sea

(Japan's renowned Shinkansen high-speed train. D.C.)
 
   
別離毎にこれが最後といふ我にわれも嗤ひつ友も笑ひつ
Every time we part I declare "This is farewell"
I sneer and my friend smiles
 
   
十五才父の膝下を去る時の訓戒は人に憎まるるなと
When I left my family home at the age of fifteen
my father's words of parting were - "Never inspire hatred"
 
   
山鳩と朝を競ひて窓押せば金剛峯に朝の映え(ホノルル)
Rising with the turtledoves I open my window
morning glows on Diamond Head
 
   
朝風に葉ずれかなでて窓外のプルメリアは室の中までも薫る
Plumerias sing outside my window rustling in the morning breeze
fragrant well into my room
 
   
大気汚染水の汚染なきホノルルも人間汚染は免るるを得で
Honolulu remains free from air pollution and water pollution
yet cannot escape human pollution
 
   
朝陽と共に花絢爛に咲き替るハイビスカスはハワイの州花
Dazzlingly blooming anew with each morning sun
the hibiscus - Hawaii's state flower
 
   
頑張れど自が頭影はつひに踏めず仰ぎて皎月と苦笑を交す
Try as I may I cannot step on my shadow's head
the moon and I share a laugh
 
   
実体はつい獲ぜりき幾年か我が幻影を追ひ馳せしかど
I never found what I was after
though I pursued an ideal for years and years
 
   
空と海碧と紺とのあふあたり一点白く船は動かず
Where sky meets sea - azure and navy blue
the white speck of a ship is motionless
 
   
百花繚乱いろとりどりに妍を競ふホノルルはよしまた帰り来む
Alive with flowers vying in multicolored splendor
Honolulu is good - I will come here again
 
   
ハドソンは連丘も流れも依然たり七ヶ月ぶりにわが窓に佇つ
The Hudson and its hills remain unchanged
after seven months away I linger by my window
 
   
留守の間にたった一人の畏友逝き遺愛の竹田寂し待ちゐたり
In my absence my one dear friend passed away
leaving a Chikuden to await me in sadness

(A painting by the Japanese artist and scholar Tanomura Chikuden - 1777~1835. D.C.)
 
   
竹田ゑがく牧童の軸壁にかけ香焚けばただよふ亡友の俤
I hang the Chikuden Oxherd on my wall
and offer incense - there drifts the shadow of my lamented friend
 
   
窓押せば待ちてし如く大河の大気冷冷と秋をささやく
I open my window and as though having waited
the great river exhales with a shiver - "Autumn!"
 
   
余生とは言ひ得てをかし為すなくて生きてるだけの此頃の我
"One's remaining days" indeed
now I simply live on with nothing to do
 
   
今日も亦日課の一つ小半時歩かんものと街に出て来つ
A daily task - I must walk for an hour
out to the street I go
 
   
商法とはかうしたものか等と思ふ九十九仙の靴下を買ひ
"So this is enterprise" - I say to myself
socks for ninety-nine cents
 
   
強いらるる日課を待たで凡夫われ窓辺に佇ちて大欠伸する
An ordinary man with no schedule to keep
I stand by my window with a mighty yawn
 
   
一応は事の裏をも見むとするわが習癖かなし何時よりかつく
I always have to check for a motive
When did this pathetic habit take root?
 
   
知識人といふ言葉あり時に聞く理屈はなしにわが忌む言葉
Sometimes I hear the word "intellectual"
it is a word I hate for no reason
 
   
水汚染大気汚染もさりながら道義汚染こそ公害の元兇
We have water pollution and air pollution
but the basic pollution is moral
 
   
歌読みて人柄偲びいまだ見ぬ歌友を待てば心たのしも
Awaiting a friend in poetry - while we have never met
I imagine his personality and my heart is filled with excitement
 
   
オッカサンヨと哀しき声に今朝も亦山鳩なけり亡孫忌づく
"Mother - mother!" - the turtledove calls sadly again this morning
I mourn the death of my grandchildren
 
   
中央公園の西南隅に屯してコロンバスの碑が豪壮に聳つ
At the southwest corner of Central Park
the Columbus monument rises majestically
 
   
第五街を十万人の行進華やかにコロンバスデー行事の一つ
One hundred thousand people gaily parade Fifth Avenue
a Columbus Day event
 
   
大陸発見はインデアンなりと抗議してコロンバスの碑にペンキ揺り撒く
Crying out that Indians discovered the continent
the Columbus monument is splattered with paint
 
   
大陸発見をコロンバスの功に帰するこそ白人種本位の歴史観にて 
To credit Columbus for the discovery of the continent
is history based on white men
 
   
人類本位の基準にたちて世界歴史編む時も来らんか年ならずして
Is a time not far when world history
will be based on the human race?
 
   
空気無く水もまたなき月の世界三日に亘り人間二人住む
On the moon - where there is neither water nor oxygen
two men spend three days
 
   
妻子とも親兄弟とも亦異ふ親しみは湧くならむアポロのクリウ
Distinct from wife and children or parents and family
the Apollo crew must share a unique bond
 
   
月よりの石を磨きて指輪造り市井に販ぐ時も来らむ
Perhaps a time will come when stones from the moon
are polished - made into rings - and sold on the street
 
   
主権無く人類共有の月の世界に早くも揚げぬ星条旗二本
The moon - without dominion and common to mankind
already has two American flags
 
   
世界戦第一を経て英は衰ふ第二を堺に米勢は傾かむ
British military power dwindled after World War I
American military power will decline from World War II
 
   
二十世紀終りの二十五年にはアメリカは踏まむ英帝国の轍
In the final quarter of the twentieth century
a discontented America will fall into the same rut as the British Empire
 
   
ソンミ虐殺の責任を問ふアメリカよ広島の責如何にか糺す
You question yourself for the My Lai Massacre - O America
how do you reason for Hiroshima?
 
   
興味本位新聞テレビの報道は無法無頼の徒を英雄と化し
Newspaper and television reporting
is dedicated to making heroes from gangs of lawless villains
 
   
思想遊戯言葉遊戯と我言はむ放言空論に華やぐ論壇
Mere word games and idle thought
the empty blather of showy journalists
 
   
不法無頼破廉恥を誇る世相にて民主国の将来は暗澹として
Lawless villainy and shamelessness are vaunted
the future of democracy seems dark
 
   
背筋冷ゆる思ひに見入る静かなる大衆が決然と立ち上る時
A chill goes down my spine
for when the feared silent majority might arise
 
   
好悪に関せず対決の日は近からん幻覚ならぬ跫音聞こゆ
Confrontation - with no right or wrong - seems closer
the sound of these footsteps is not an illusion
 
   
雨に閉すハドソン川を巨船一つ汽笛ひびかせ朦朧と遡る
The Hudson cloaked in rain - one big ship
sounds its whistle and dimly ascends
 
   
緩慢に山道降り来ていつしかに谿間に佇ちて斜陽を仰ぐ
Wandered down a mountain path I find myself in a ravine
and raise my face to the setting sun
 
   
大河一条鉛に淀み連丘黝く夕陽落ちて空あけに染む
The great river runs a leaden streak beneath black hills
the sun sets - the sky stains scarlet
 
   
陽の墜ちし連丘超えて我も行かむ丘の彼方のよし冥くとも
Beyond the hills where the sun has fallen - I will follow
beyond the hills - what if it is dark there too?
 
   

*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

 
   

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.