Konoshima's Tanka PDF Print E-mail

Translations by David Callner


 

1979

Honolulu, Hawaii
 

雨をつき坂かける音こもり居るわが若き日の俤を追ふ

Someone runs splashing downhill in the rain -  indoors
I chase memories of my youth

 

思考鈍り耳遠くなり眼はかすめども追憶は鮮かに瞼に現つ

My mind grows dull - my hearing poor - my vision dim
yet recollections rise vividly before my eyes

 

恩讎の彼方となりて思ひ出は一期一会の恵みとはなる

Love and hatred grow distant
while memories become blessings of the moment

 

追憶にのみ耽りていつか一年は了る除夜の爆竹街にとどろき

Immersed in recollection - somehow one year has passed
New Year’s fireworks thunder through the town

 

老耄の身に消え残る思出の大方はみな古里のこと

Memories that survive in this doting body
are usually all about my native village

 

渓流に沿ひて村在り人等住めどわが知る誰友みな逝きて無し

A village by a mountain stream - people live there
but my friends have all passed away

 

すばらしい現実に我を生み遺し不遇にはてし父母を偲ふ

Having brought me into this wonderful reality
Father and Mother ended in misfortune

 

幕末維新の変移に処する術にうとき若年の父に家運は潰え

With no means to benefit from the Edo-Meiji transformation
young Father saw his family wealth collapse

 

(The transformation from the Edo period [1603 to 1868] to the Meiji period [1868 to 1912].)

 

母の口説ただ黙然と聞きながし煙草吹き居し父の面影

Ignoring Mother’s nagging in silence
puffing on his cigarette - a vestige of Father

 

元旦より四月も半ば過ぐるまで新年を祝ふ宴会催さる

From New Year’s day well beyond mid-April
parties are held to celebrate the New Year

 

常夏の島にも花は季節あり四季夫々にあざやかに咲き

Flowers have seasons even on an island of endless summer
blossoming vividly in turn

 

老若男女装ひこらすバスのうち仮に全員赤裸なりせば

Men and women of all ages dressed up on the bus
Suppose everybody were stark naked?

 

小鳥等と朝を競ひて窓押せば太平洋の蒼茫眼下に展く

Vying with little birds for the morning I open my window
the Pacific dawn spreads before my eyes

 

金剛峯ワイキキのビル置き据ゑて大洋は朧銀の水盤をなす

The buildings of Diamond Head and Waikiki set
in a Pacific flower bowl of muted silver

 

空の碧と海の蒼とが会ふあたり朝日をうけて船白くゆく

Where jade sky meets pale-blue sea
a ship moves whitely in the morning sun

 

乗り換へのバス待ち佗びて隣席の未知の老婆はバナナを頒つ

Tired of awaiting the next bus I sit - beside me
an old woman gives me some of her banana

 

乗る毎にバスの動揺ことなりてドライバーの個性夫々に覚ゆ

Each bus sways differently
with each driver’s personality

 

行きずりの未知の人にも言葉かけ明治の素朴ハワイには残る

Even strangers say hello in passing
a Meiji simplicity survives in Hawaii

 

会釈されさて誰方かと名を問へばあなたの孫よと肩に手をおく

Someone hails so I ask who he is
“Your grandson” - he puts his arm around my shoulder

 

死ぬる迄歌は詠むぞと気負へども歌材はみんな手垢にまみれ

“I will write poems till I die” - I declare
but my notes are all covered with smudges

 

Latham, New York

烏鳴き小鳥さへづり若芽だつ森の彼方に朝陽はのぞく

Crows caw and little birds twitter in the fresh verdure
the morning sun yonder peeks through the woods

 

せせらぎは芽立をすかし陽をはじき谷の上下に朝陽はをどる

A stream peeks through the verdure and reflects the light
up and down the valley dances the morning sun

 

狂い咲く染井よしのの花陰に一期一会の行人と語る

Beneath the shade of an unseasonably blossoming cherry tree
I speak with a stranger in the moment

 

縄文土器二個を得たれば一つだけ割愛すると友は書き添へ

Having found a pair of Joumon pots
“You only get one” - says my friend’s postscript
 

(The Joumon period is the time in Japanese prehistory from about 14,000 BCE to 300 BCE.The term Joumon means "cord-patterned" in Japanese. This refers to the pottery style characteristic of the Joumon culture, and which has markings made using sticks with cords wrapped around them. Wikipedia.

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.)

 

縄文土器すさび稚拙にたくまざる伝統の寂ほのぼのかもす

A Joumon pot - an unskilled and uncontrived amusement
faintly brews the tradition of sabi
 

(The words wabi and sabi do not translate easily. Wabi originally referred to the loneliness of living in nature, remote from society; sabi meant "chill", "lean" or "withered". Around the 14th century these meanings began to change, taking on more positive connotations. Wabi now connotes rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness, and can be applied to both natural and human-made objects, or understated elegance. It can also refer to quirks and anomalies arising from the process of construction, which add uniqueness and elegance to the object. Sabi is beauty or serenity that comes with age, when the life of the object and its impermanence are evidenced in its patina and wear, or in any visible repairs. Wikipedia.)

 

北斎ゑがく小さき画譜は天保の東海道を笑ましくもうつす

Hokusai’s little picture books
reflect the Tenpou Tokaido Road with delight

 

(The Tenpou era - 1830 to 1844. The Tokaido was the most important of the Five Routes of the Edo period [1603 to 1868], connecting Edo [modern-day Tokyo] to Kyoto. Wikipedia.)

 

馬と雲助川人足が街道の主役たりしは百五十年前

Horses and coolies and river men
stars of the road one hundred fifty years ago

 

股ぐらに頭さし入れて肩車川人足は人権などは問はず

Their heads between the legs of those they bear
the river men have no qualms about human rights

 

状箱かつぎ尻端折りにひた走る飛脚は天保通信の雄

Running ceaselessly with kimonos tucked up and postal cases shouldered
couriers - the heroes of Tenpou communication

 

肩に乗り頭の上に扇子立て路傍の巌の高さ計る旅人

Carried on shoulders - with a fan atop his head
a traveler gauges the height of a roadside overhang

 

花だより祖国は訪はねこもり居て明治の上野あかずさすらふ

Tidings of cherry blossoms from the Japan I cannot visit
inside I wander Meiji’s Ueno untiringly

 

(Ueno Park is a spacious public park in Tokyo that is famous for its cherry blossoms.)

 

名に恥ぢぬ三尺生瓜なり下がる菜園は毎朝老をいたはる

True to their name the Sanjaku Uri dangle down
each morning a vegetable patch consoles this old man

 

(Sanjaku Uri is a variety of cucumber which translates as “three-foot cucumber”. Konoshima owned a farm of tens of acres in California, but lost it to the Japanese-American internment in WWII.)

 

菜園の三尺生瓜かたちよくつやよきは先づ隣家に頒つ

Cucumbers from my vegetable patch - fine in shape
fine in luster - I’ll share the best with my neighbors

 

魚跳ねる音空に消え葦ゆれて山間の小湖に微笑ただよふ

The sound of a jumping fish vanishes into the sky - reeds sway
a smile plays on a little mountain lake

 

山育ち稚き遊びに会得せし木登りは老耄の躯に甦る

Mastered through youthful play in my mountain-village
tree climbing comes back to me in dotage

 

山に川にいく度か経し生き死にの危機は今なほ思出に顕つ

Countless life-and-death crises in the mountains and rivers
appear to me still now

 

つくし野は早も夏野となりにけり雨に籠りておとなはぬ間に

The fields of horsetail already turn to summer
as I remain far away - indoors from the rain

 

思出のつくしかなしみ採み持てど味も料理も今はおぼえず

Sadly I gather up the horsetail I remember well
the flavor and recipe I no longer recall

 

思出にかなしきつくし古里の土堤には今は無くなりしならむ

I remember horsetail sadly
now surely gone from the banks of my native home

 

白きあり紅むらさきも黄もまじり天賦を競ひ夏草は咲く

White and crimson with purple and yellow too
summer wildflowers bloom in a contest of blessings

 

思い出の花にまじりて日本では見たことも無き野草あまた咲く

With the Japanese flowers of my memory
blossom an abundance of wildflowers I have never seen

 

突風に帽子を取られ拾ふ野路すみれはむげに踏まじとぞ思ふ

A gust blows my hat down the country path
but O I simply refuse to trample the violets

 

豪華なりし花野は遷り夫々の色にかたちに重く実をつけ

The splendid flowering fields mature
each color and shape heavily weighed with seeds

 

掌に載せて真紅に熟れし蜂屋柿艶喰べ惜みまた供へおく

I take down a persimmon ripened scarlet
a glaze too perfect I return it to the butsudan

 

(A butsudan [literally "Buddha altar"] is a shrine commonly found in temples and homes in Japanese Buddhist cultures. Wikipedia.
Fruit, rice, and sake are often placed in a butsudan as offerings.)

 

雪晴れの木末に残る柿のずくし朝陽に映えて瞼にたつ

A ripe persimmon clings to a snowy branch
shining beneath the morning sun in my mind’s eye

 

朝毎に池に浮く病葉数増して行きつ戻りつ秋は近づく

More dead leaves float on my pond each morning
autumn - gone to return once more - draws near

 

小雨降る森は煙りて音はなし小鳥が一羽葉陰にふくれ

A drizzle falls in smoky woods - all is silent
one small bird puffs itself up amongst the leaves

 

人のたつる音いまだ無き森陰にひえびえと坐り小鳥等を待つ

Still no human sound beneath the trees
cold - I sit in wait of little birds

 

雪に埋もるる磐間を縫うて淙々と流るる水は帰ることなく

Buried in snow and gurgling through crags
water flows - never to return

 

1956

降る雪に芽立の雨に夕立に放射能を算ふるか祖国の人ら

In the falling snow - in the budding rain - in the evening showers
do people of my native land measure radiation?


 

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 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.