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Spring 2009, vol 7 no 1
 

Tanka by Kisaburo Konoshima
newly translated by David Callner*

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

 
   
1971 - 1972  
馳せ違ふ自動車の風に煽られて落葉ひとつ車道をまろぶ
Swept up between passing automobiles
a single leaf tumbles down the road
 
   
上に舞ひ横に煽られ飄々と車道の落葉轢かれもせずに
Flitting upwards - fluttering sideways
the buoyant leaf is not run over
 
   
風に舞ふ車道の落葉見て佇てり八十年の我が生涯に似て
I linger watching the leaf flutter down the road
it resembles my eighty years of life
 
   
広葉うつ雨に目覚めてまたも想ふ浪々流転八十年の生涯
Awakened by rain pattering the big leaves - again I contemplate
an eighty-year lifetime of perpetual wandering
 
   
ターンパイク連丘の眺めは朝な夕な十有二年我が夢を支ふ
By day and night for twelve years
the turnpike hills feed my dreams

(The hills of the Palisades Interstate Parkway, across the Hudson river from Konoshima's apartment in Yonkers, New York. D.C.)
 
   
西湖に遁れ鶴を飼ひゐし林和靖の画幅壁間に掲げてハドソンに老ゆ
A scroll painting of the hermit Lin Hejing and his cranes by West Lake
hangs on my wall as I grow old by the Hudson

(Lin Hejing - 967~1028 - was a poet, calligrapher, and scholar who became a favorite subject for Chinese and Japanese artists. He was most often portrayed as a hermit living with his pet cranes on an island in the middle of West Lake, in Hangzhou, China. 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.)
 
   
死ぬ三日前に姪が送りし故郷の茶百ケ日を過ぎ漸漸届く
My niece sent tea from my village three days before she died
I finally receive it after her Hyakka Nichi

(In Buddhism and perhaps in Japanese popular culture during Konoshima's time, Hyakka Nichi, the one-hundredth day after a person's death, marks when the deep sorrow of those left behind begins to be relieved. D.C.)
 
   
白髪赭顔の老夫婦我をおどろかす五十余年前の生徒と名告り
A white-haired rubicund old couple astonish me
introducing themselves as my students from fifty years past
 
   
ブラジルに子を育てあげ財を築き展墓の帰途と老夫婦は語る
A fortune made and children raised in Brazil
the aged couple will visit their family grave in Japan
 
   
わがあたり小雀までも人馴れてつまづく程に歩道に遊ぶ
So used to people are the sparrows here
one stumbles over them as they play on the sidewalks
 
   
垣に添ひ錦と積る枯落葉霜うすくおき紙屑もまじる
By a hedge lies a brocade of lightly frosted leaves
touched with scraps of paper
 
   
ありだけの実を放ち了へ霜に伏す野末の雑草に陽は鈍く照る
The sun shines dimly on weeds by a field
prostrate in the frost - their seeds all sown
 
   
秋晴のハドソンはいよいよに水碧く空の朝月川にも浮ぶ
The Hudson turns a deeper blue this fine autumn day
the moon in the morning sky floats on the river too
 
   
秋晴の野路行きはて放ちたる屁の音乾けり明日も晴ならん
I cross a field the fine autumn day and cut a fart
it sounds dry - tomorrow should be a fine day too
 
   
対岸は一夜の冷えに色更へて今朝はすがすがと晩秋をかたる
The opposite shore changes color with an overnight chill
morning speaks bracingly of autumn's end
 
   
鼠の相談と双璧をなし遣らんか国連総会といふお伽噺は
Why not summon the two leaders to the Council of Mice
the fable of the United Nations General Assembly?

(From Aesop's "Belling the Cat." The leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union. D.C.)
 
   
ニクソンの新経済の抜き打に経済大国の朝野戸惑ふ
Nixon's sudden new economics
bewilder everybody in this economic world power
 
   
今は正に国内を顧る秋なりとニクソンは揚言す憚りもなく
This autumn is the time for domestic issues
Nixon declares without scruple
 
   
父祖の過失我等は刈ると孫言へり孫等の過失いつ誰が刈る
"We reap the mistakes of our forefathers" - our grandchildren say
Who reaps the mistakes of our grandchildren? When?
 
   
自制は自由の基本条件なりといふ原則を忘れて近頃の世相
The fundamental condition for freedom is restraint
this basic principle has been forgotten
 
   
夢は理想を理想は現実を生むとかや悠久普遍の夢持て若人
If dreams become ideals and ideals become reality
young men - dream of eternal ubiquity
 
   
沛然と豪雨の去来時余にして千丈の新滝峡峡にかかる
Hours of torrential downpours
bring towering new cascades into the ravine
 
   
十有二年我を支へしハドソンも近隣悪化して我が夢を拒む
My Hudson neighborhood of twelve years
deteriorates and ruins my dreams
 
   
今更に心霽るるなりホノルルのあくまで碧くすめる大空
Of course my spirits feel light
Honolulu's perfectly blue lucent sky

(Konoshima usually wintered at the home of his second daughter in Honolulu. He moved there permanently in 1978. D.C.)
 
   
朝晴の空渡り来てカーデナル我を歓迎へて朗にうたふ
A cardinal sweeps through the clear morning sky
and greets me with ringing song
 
   
途にあふ見知らぬ人も言葉かけホノルルにはまだ淳朴は遺れり
Strangers on the street say hello
rusticity still lives in Honolulu
 
   
親切過剰のホノルルの友をありがたみ心中の負担念仏に消す
Appreciative of my Honolulu friend's excessive kindness
I vanquish my heart's burdens with a prayer to Amitabha

(Namu Amida Butsu is a prayer to Amitabha, the Buddha of Infinite Light. The prayer is an act of Buddhist devotion, but in Japanese popular culture the invocation of Namu Amida Butsu is simply a wish for good luck or an expression of gratitude with no religious meaning. D.C.)
 
   
ばっさばっさと截り落されてもすぐに亦鬱蒼と繁るホノルルの庭木
"Clip clip" - but right away
the Honolulu shrubbery grows lushly back
 
   
花笑ひ鳥は囀り人は睦みそこはかとなき情緒街に漂ふ(ホノルル)
Flowers smile - birds twitter - people are in harmony
feelings seem to drift through the streets
                                                          (Honolulu)
 
   
身の毛よだつ危機の幾つを無事にすぎ曾孫のため初幟物色ぶ
Unharmed through a number of hair-raising crises
now I choose a nobori for my great-grandson

(Nobori, or koinobori, are wind socks fashioned after carp to be flown for the two weeks preceding May 5, Children's Day in Japan, celebrating a son in the family. It is often considered an honor and a pleasure for grandparents to buy koinobori. D.C.)
 
   
ミルクリーク渓のおくどに雉子鳴きて水車の軋み幻覚に聞く
Deep in the Mill Creek valley a pheasant cries
the ghost of a creaking water wheel

(In the spring of 1972 Konoshima and his wife moved to the Philadelphia suburb of Ardmore to live with the family of his youngest daughter. Mill Creek ran near Konoshima's new residence. D.C.)
 
   
ワシントンの本営残るバレーホージの古戦場もわが新居に近く
Valley Forge - with George Washington's headquarters
an ancient battlefield near my new home
 
   
桜は散り林檎に次ぎて躑躅咲きドッグウッドも遅れじと競ふ
Cherry blossoms scatter and following apple blossoms azalea blooms
dogwood hurries not to be left behind
 
   
亡といふ字我名の上にあるならんわれ若し酒を続けたりせば
The word "Deceased" will surely follow my name
if I continue to drink sake
 
   
酒もなくよき歌もなくて齢八十今日の誕生を惜しみなく祝ふ
Eighty years old - no sake nor even a good poem
yet I celebrate my birthday with all my heart
 
   
筆太く克といふ字を書きてみぬ老にあまゆる自我省みて
"Victory" - I write in bold strokes
see how this old man fawns on himself
 
   
朝露に足を濡らして菜園の育ちを見るは楽しき日課
Feet damp with morning dew I watch my vegetables grow
a daily routine of pleasure
 
   
日本人は我ばかりなる町に移りマネキン意識の日常を生く
The only Japanese in my new town
I live the life of a mannequin
 
   
移り来て三月になれど我があたり只の一人も日系人を見ず
Three months in my new surroundings
without seeing a single person of Japanese descent
 
   
大邸宅の中にはさまる小さき我家聞ゆるは小鳥の歌ふ声のみ
My little house is tucked between fine mansions
I hear nothing but the songs of small birds
 
   
丘もあり渓ある邸宅いまここに若葉波立て涼風は到る
Hills - valleys - and fine mansions
a cool breeze swells the verdure
 
   
こんもりと老木繁る隣邸宅の余恵か我家夏も涼しく
Could summer be cool for the abundant grace
of the neighboring mansions' luxuriant old trees?
 
   
十五より八十迄の写真年順に貼る手を休めて追想にふける
Arranging photographs from fifteen to eighty
I rest my hands and abandon myself in recollection
 
   
色も褪せ折れ破れたる古写真我が生涯の変遷を語る
Faded creased and torn old photographs
they tell the story of my life's vicissitudes
 
   
虫すだき蛍飛び交ふ庭に佇ち幼き頃の郷村を偲ふ
I linger in my garden - insects swarm and fireflies flit
and recall the village of my childhood
 
   
笏に作ると父の教へし一位てふ木異郷アメリカの我庭に見出す
Father once told me it was made into maces
I discover a Japanese yew in my American garden
 
   
競ひ鳴く虫の声声聞き別けて幼き呼名老妻と語る
My aged wife and I compare the names from our childhood
for each insect vying in song outside
 
   
移転直後迷ひ失せたるペルシャ猫寝余る夜半に憐み偲ふ
I move and my Siamese cat strays away
I think of him with pity the sleepless nights
 
   
食を求め石に追はれて哀れ仔猫何処にさ迷ふか雨さへ降るに
Wretched cat - hoping for food but chased off with rocks
where do you wander in this rain?
 
   
夜明かさむとすれば月の照るなりき開け放しの窓にみづ葉輝ひ
The moon still shines as day would break
moist leaves gleam through my open window
 
   
鬱蒼と繁る樹林に暁はやく闇を破りカ−デナル歌ふ
Day breaks in the luxuriantly thick woods
already rending the darkness a cardinal sings
 
   
和平交流を世界に布かむ悲願もて北京を訪ふとニクソンは言ふ
Nixon says he visits Beijing with earnest prayers
for peace negotiations that would cover the world
 
   
ニクソンの悲願はまさに途遠し初歩だにも成らば欣びとせむ
The road for Nixon's earnest prayers is long
a mere beginning would be cause to rejoice
 
   
何処より何地に渡る雁ならん濃霧を越えて鳴き交す聞ゆ
Migrating geese - whence do you come, whither do you go
calling to each other through the thick fog?
 
   
冷え冷えと朝霧まきて秋づきぬ我が菜園も衰へをみせ
The morning mist spreads an autumnal chill
my vegetable garden shows signs of decline
 
   
九千哩海山を越え秋虫は七十余年の我が郷愁をうたふ
Nine thousand miles across ocean and mountains
autumnal insects sing my seventy-year longing for home
 
   
母にねだりし一厘銭を汗に握りいちもくさんに駄菓子に走りし
Gripping the coin I begged from mother
I dashed to the candy shop
 
   
一ケ一厘の打切飴もひさがれて駄菓子屋の店は遠き思出
Taffy - one piece a penny
the candy shop a distant memory
 
   

*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.