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Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
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Winter 2009, vol 7 no 4
 

Tanka by Kisaburo Konoshima
newly translated by David Callner*

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

 
   
1975  
この冬もハワイに行かむ曾孫等の育てる貌をまのあたり見む 
Why not visit Hawaii this winter as well
and see how my great-grandchildren mature for myself?

(Konoshima lived in Pennsylvania with his youngest daughter's family, usually wintering in Hawaii with his two other daughters, from 1972.)
 
   
老の徒然いやすよすがにならむかと愛蔵の古鏡はるばると運ぶ
For it might soothe the tedium of old age
I bring my treasured ancient mirror from afar

(From Philadelphia to Hawaii. After WWII Konoshima began acquiring what was to become a significant collection of Japanese art and antiques, including ancient bronze mirrors, from East-side antique shops in New York City - this collection is now part of the Herbert R. Johnson Museum at Cornell University.)
 
   
花紋鏡地に埋れて二千年世に出て今日は天空をかける
A flower-embossed mirror buried two thousand years
today soars through the sky
 
   
二千余年地に埋れし出土鏡世に出づれども顔は映さず
A mirror buried two thousand years - an archeological find
brought to life it no longer reflects
 
   
八十二歳命ありけり今こそは裡より滾つ歌をぞと希ふ(迎新年)
Still alive at eighty-two - now
O that poems might spring forth from inside!
                                        (Welcoming the New Year)
 
   
かにかくに六十年を添ひ遂げて曾孫をいだき初日おろがむ
Man and wife through sixty years of vicissitudes
great-grandchildren in our arms we welcome the New Year's sun
 
   
六十年の契りを思ふかにかくに常夏の園に曾孫を抱く
Reflecting on the vicissitudes of a sixty-year marriage
I hold my great-grandchild in a garden of never-ending summer
 
   
緑おほふ街をへだてて大洋蒼く金剛峯に初陽かがやふ
Beyond the green town lies an azure Pacific
the rising sun shines onto Diamond Head
 
   
鮮やかな虹立つことも稀となりホノルル名物また一つ減る
The vivid rainbows now rare
one more Honolulu charm is lost
 
   
激動する世の変遷に追ひに追はれホノルルも若人等夢を失ふ
Driven by the vicissitudes of a society in upheaval
Honolulu's young lose all sense of vision
 
   
先ず今日を明日は野となれ山となれ若人は走る日々享楽に
"After us the deluge"
young people spend their days running after pleasure
 
   
他人を慮ひ明日を計れと訓されて我は育ちぬ明治に生れ
Taught to be considerate and to plan for the future
born and raised in Meiji was I

(The Meiji era - 1868 to 1912.)
 
   
路傍に落ちしマンゴ拾ふは旅の人土着の人はふり向きもせず
Tourists pick up the roadside mangoes
that locals do not even notice
 
   
殺人強盗日にはびこりてホノルルも楽園は今や戦慄の園
Robbery and murder plague Honolulu each day
Paradise is now a Garden of Fear
 
   
父母よりも孫の住所に足しげき娘夫婦の幸をうべなふ
We suffer the happiness of our daughter and her husband
who visit their grandchildren rather than visit us
 
   
沛然と山より下り沖に去る驟雨は老の愚痴をも洗ふ
Torrentially descending from the hills then off to sea
a squall washes this old man's grumbling away
 
   
洋に去りし驟雨は沖に柱なし陽は赫々とワイキキの浜
The squall forms a pillar in the offing
the sun brilliant on Waikiki beach
 
   
晴れてよし雨また可なり朝な夕な太平洋をわが庭として
Good when clear and OK if it rains - by day and night
the Pacific Ocean is my garden
 
   
渋面も微笑もともに心柄老ありがたく世の隅に生く
The grimace and the little smile both my nature
now this old man lives at ease in a corner of the world
 
   
空の碧と洋の紺とがあふあたり金剛峯の肩船白くのぞく
Where azure sky meets navy-blue sea
a boat peeks whitely along Diamond Head
 
   
太平洋に金剛峯を置き据えて街ホノルルは盆景をなす
Diamond Head's Pacific foundation
Honolulu - a miniature garden
 
   
只一人踏み闢きゆく砂浜の足跡辿りゆく人等絶えせじ(光子師へ)
People will always follow
you first tread the sandy beaches alone
                                              (To Mitsuko)

(Konoshima's mentor in poetry, Mitsuko Shiga, 1885~1976, was married to the poet Mizuho Ota and collaborated with his literary magazine, Cho-on, the quarterly that published Konoshima's entire opus from 1950 to 1984. Shiga was also a selector of the verses submitted for the annual New Year's Poetry Reading at the Imperial Palace. Anthologies of her poetry include Fuji no Mi - "Wisteria Beans", Asa Tsuki - "Morning Moon", Asa Ginu - "Linen Silk", and Kamakura Zakki - "Kamakura Miscellany". Shiga also published some instructional guides to the writing of poetry, including Waka dokuhon - "A Guide to Waka Verse", and Dento to Gendai Waka - "Tradition and Modern Waka".)
 
   
匹夫たり野人たらむと願ひつつ世相をよそに残生を生く
I wish to be a humble bumpkin
and live my remaining days away from society
 
   
身の毛よだつ危機幾度か生き遁れ常夏の園に曾孫とあそぶ
Alive despite many a hair-raising crisis
I play with my great-grandchildren in a garden of never-ending summer
 
   
外出のたびに必ず仰ぐ空ただ何もなく碧き大空
Each time I go outside I look up at the sky
the simply blue sky
 
   
街に見る容姿ととのふ老婆等は写婚時代に花嫁にかあらむ
Old women all done up in town
Were they picture brides?

(The term "picture bride" refers to the practice in the early 20th century of immigrant workers - chiefly Japanese and Korean - in Hawaii and the West Coast of the United States selecting brides from their native countries via a matchmaker, who paired bride and groom using only photographs and family recommendations of the possible candidates. Wikipedia.)
 
   
一葉の写真頼りに嫁ぎ来し花嫁は今や老いにやすらふ
Come to marry on the strength of a single picture
the brides now find peace with old age
 
   
郷愁といふ情緒今ものこりゐてホノルルは同郷の集ひ盛んに
The feeling called nostalgia still lives
Honolulu with many a hometown reunion

(Reunions for people from certain areas of Japan.)
 
   
みはるかす洋いや蒼きただなかに初陽をうけて船一つ光る
In the middle of a vast and deeply azure sea
a single boat shines beneath the rising sun
 
   
朝の窓太平洋はみるうちにその紺碧のいろあひを変ゆ
In my window this morning the Pacific Ocean
changes deep blue tones before my eyes
 
   
花絶えぬ常夏の街に長居して吹雪にすさぶ北美濃を恋ふ
Too long in this town of never-ending summer where flowers never die
I yearn for Kita Mino beneath the raging snow

(Konoshima's native village, Nishikawa-mura, was in an area called Kita Mino, in Gifu Prefecture.)
 
   
旅費四円肌に括りて歩み出でし流浪は七十年世界に及ぶ
With four yen passage fast to my breast - off I walked
to seventy years of wandering the globe

(In the postscript to his Hudson: A Collection of Tanka, Konoshima wrote: "In the spring of my fifteenth year I left my birthplace. Unable to give up my childish dream for "Studying Under Adversity and Rising Up in Life", an ideal that was in vogue during the Meiji period, I pressed my father and brothers and got them to raise, or practically bleed out what was then four yen. Putting the money in the light-blue money belt that my elder sister had sewn for me, I fastened it to myself and ventured from my remote village of Nishikawa, near the source of the Nagara river in Gifu prefecture, for Tokyo.")
 
   
彷徨もながくはあらじ折にふれ事ある毎に我寿をかぞふ
Soon my wandering must end
When? - I wonder each time something happens
 
   
思出多き桑湾地帯惜みつつ航空一路大陸を渡る
Sadly I leave a San Francisco rich with memories
and fly straight across a continent
 
   
白一色小襞をなして大地被ふロッキーの雪嶺見つぶして翔ける
Solid white pleats drape this vast land
I soar gazing down on the snow-capped Rockies
 
   
雨か雪か地上はまさにしけならん我機の孤影雲海を渡る
Rain or snow? - there must be a storm directly below
the lonely shadow of my plane crosses a sea of clouds
 
   
墓をあばき墓碑にさも似たビル建てて老若男女犇きて住む
Graves are dug up and buildings rise like tombstones
where people of all ages live crowding together
 
   
二三輪ほころび初めし花林檎八十二歳の誕生を飾る
Two or three apple flowers begin to bloom
and adorn my eighty-second birthday
 
   
道ばた一本八重の日本桜花陰に未知の行人と語る
In the shade of a blossoming double-flowered Japanese cherry tree
I talk with a stranger
 
   
魚はねて水面におこる小さき波紋岸の若芦揺るとしもなく
A fish jumps raising little ripples on the water
young reeds on the banks seem to sway
 
   
朝毎に餌さ場に集ふ森の小禽かぞふれば十有五種にも及ぶ
Small birds of the forest gather around my feeder each morning
I count more than fifteen species
 
   
悠々とゑさ喰むなかにおづおづと餌喰むもをかし小鳥の習性
Some feed leisurely - some with trepidation
funny are the ways of little birds
 
   
色かたち飛ぶ姿勢さへそれぞれに美しさにあふれみわざ頌ふる
In color and shape and even in flight
each bird brims with its own beauty - Praise to their Design
 
   
尾根を越すあとりの群をさながらに楡の落葉がひらひらと飛ぶ
Crossing the ridge like a flock of goldfinches
elm leaves flutter
 
   
とりどりに錦織りなす森の小道今秋も生きてかさこそと歩む
The forest path a varied brocade
I walk rustling - alive this autumn too
 
   
渓を埋む落葉の錦縫ふ如く見えつかくれつ水細くゆく
Weaving a brocade of fallen leaves across the valley
now seen now hidden runs a needle of water
 
   
奔流の岸に淀みて水だまり四季折々の花影やどす
A pool slack along a bank of tumbling waters
holds each season's flowers in reflection
 
   
水だまり花も紅葉も青嵐も雪折れすすきも冬くればやどす
A pool of water holds flowers - wind-swept verdure - autumnal colors
and in winter eulalia weighed down with snow
 
   
渓流の岸に淀める花芥小虫がひとつ危くすがる
A piece of flower slack by the bank of a mountain stream
a little insect clings perilously
 
   
小虫載せ淀にうづまく花芥杖の先にて岸にはねあぐ
A piece of flower with its little insect slack in the shallows
I flip it onto the bank with my cane
 
   
色彩かたちどれもすばらしく蠣の殻択び並べてしみじみと見る
Oyster shells each magnificent in color and shape
I choose a few and line them up - and gaze with all my heart
 
   
飛び込まむ妄想ふと起る数丈の怒涛巌噛む懸崖に佇てば
I suddenly see myself wanting to dive
great heights of raging waves bite at a cliff and I stand on the precipice
 
   
眠れぬままに夜半を起き出ほろ苦き日本茶いれて老をたのしむ
Unable to sleep I rise in the dead of night
pour some slightly bitter Japanese tea and enjoy being old
 
   
雨空を友呼び交はし過ぐ雁傘傾けて佇つ見えずなるまで
Wild geese pass calling to each other in a rainy sky
I tilt my umbrella to follow them out of sight
 
   
さらさらと窓に音して雪しぐれはるかに偲ぶ故郷北美濃
A soft patter at my window and I hear the drizzling snow
in my birthplace of Kita Mino long ago
 
   

*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 and teaches English at Nagano University. He is a grandson of Kisaburo Konoshima.