Konoshima's Tanka PDF Print E-mail

Translations by David Callner

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

 

1980

Honolulu, Hawaii

 

身の毛よだつ危機いく度か生きのびて今日八十八歳の初陽をろがむ
How many hair-raising crises have I survived?
Eighty-eight years old - I pray to the New Year’s sun

 

予習も復習も須臾あり得ざる生命の八十八年不可思議を生く
Life - never a moment to prepare or review
I live eighty-eight years in its wonder

 

水は器に順ふと言へりさながらの八十八年の変遷を思ふ
“Water takes the form of its vessel”
O the vicissitudes of my eighty-eight years

 

窓に来鳴く小鳥の声も冴えざえと今朝の目覚めを先づはよろこぶ
Little birds come to sing at my window in clear tones
this morning I wake with delight

 

会堂の尖塔高く陽をはじき今朝の大空殊更に碧く
A steeple reflects the sun up high
the sky this morning remarkably blue

 

声たててわれ愛づれども大空はひたに黙していや碧きのみ
Though I cry out in admiration
the sky remains silent - O simply blue

 

紺碧の空一片の雲もなく椰子さやさやと浜風に鳴る
An azure sky - not one speck of cloud
palms rustle in the ocean breeze

 

今朝もわれたしかに生きて窓に佇つ太平洋は碧く涯なく
I seem to be alive this morning too - at my window
the Pacific Ocean is blue and endless

 

ソッファに臥て窓に見さくる大洋の碧をふまえて金剛峯は峙つ
I lie on my sofa - beneath the window
Diamond Head rises against ocean blue

 

日光の直射の痛き街に出て日陰をつたひとぼとぼと歩く
Out to the street where the sun is painful
I totter along in shade

 

一時間に一度だけ来るバスを待つ客大方は知友とはなる
Awaiting a bus which comes but once each hour
most passengers become good friends

 

とりどりに色濃き花を客等持ちバスの中までホノルルは香る
Passengers carry varied flowers of vivid colors
Honolulu is fragrant into its buses

 

ストライキ強盗殺人頻発しいよいよつのる庶民の不安は
Strikes - robbery - and murder are on the rise
and the unease of an ever more aggravated public

 

清掃人の罷業に処する方途なしローマ帝国の末期も斯くて起りぬ
No means to cope with the garbage collectors’ walkout
thus began the final stage of the Roman Empire

 

宵毎に山を下り来る夕立は風をまきたる雨足速く
Showers descend the hills each evening
swift with coiling wind

 

今日ひと日まともに生きてみはるかす大洋の涯は落陽に燃ゆ
I lived this one day in virtue
the ocean’s horizon ablaze with the setting sun

 

あるがままの今日を肯ひ窓にたてば大洋の涯夕陽は灼く
At my window I accept this day for what it was
the setting sun burns resplendently on the sea

 

あかあかと夕空を焼きて海の涯今日の落陽は今日だけのもの
Brilliantly burning the evening sky - at the edge of the sea
today’s sun belongs to this day alone

 

岸壁に咬み散る怒濤おきざりに大洋は静かにたそがれてゆく
Surging waves left crashing over the breakwater
the ocean quietly falls into dusk

 

ともに米寿偕老六十五周年六人の子供等みな正常にて
We both reach Beiju and our sixty-fifth anniversary
with all six of our children upstanding

(The eighty-eighth birthday is the occasion of Beiju 米寿, "rice age", because the Chinese character for rice, 米, looks like the characters for eighty-eight [八十八]. Wikipedia.
Rice symbolizes wealth, nutrition, and things wholesome, and in Japan one’s eighty-eighth birthday is considered a joyful event.)

 

呆けぶりを互に笑ひ笑はれつ夫婦揃ひて米寿を祝ふ
We laugh at each other’s dotage
and celebrate Beiju together

 

米寿迎へ卒寿を希ふ凡夫凡婦凡庸の一日をあひよりて生く
Upon Beiju we hope for Sotsuju - an ordinary couple
we live each ordinary day hand in hand

(Sotsuju is the name for one’s ninetieth birthday.)

 

子等孫等曾孫もまじへて廿四人集ひて我等の米寿を祝ふ
Children - grandchildren - even great-grandchildren -twenty-four
gather to celebrate our Beiju

 

八十八歳偕老六十五周年カ大統領の祝辞はからずも届く
Eighty-eight years old on our sixty-fifth anniversary
a surprise message of congratulations from President Carter

 

米寿祝ふと集る一族四十余人カーター大統領よりも祝福の手紙
Gathered to celebrate Beiju is a family larger than forty
and a letter of blessings from President Carter

 

夫婦偕に米寿を迎へうれしくも重ねて祝ふ孫の婚礼
O to the joy of welcoming Beiju together
comes the celebration of our grandchild’s marriage

(This and the following two poems were written for David Callner and his bride on the occasion of their marriage.)

 

海山千里はるけき旅の門出ぞや難易ともども相扶け行け
On the eve of your long journey - over mountains and sea
go forth in mutual support - together through both trial and ease

 

いみじくも孫等は選ぶ文化の日新生活に入らん婚儀に
How admirably our grandchildren choose Culture Day
to begin a new life with their wedding

(November 3, Bunka no Hi, or Culture Day, is a Japanese national holiday in promotion of the arts and academia.)

 

霜枯の奥ハドソンを家づとに撮りて帰れと娘に托しやる
“The wintry upper Hudson can be my souvenir”
I ask my daughter to come back with a photo

 

テレビの写す雪景かなしもまざまざと古郷の山河胸底に吹雪く
A television snowscape brings sadness - vividly
snow falls on mountains and rivers in the village of my heart

 

テレビ写す雪景は愛し見る毎に北濃の吹雪まなうらに荒ぶ
Each time a wistful snowscape appears on television
a Hokuno blizzard rages in my eyes

(Konoshima’s native village was in an area called Hokuno, in Gifu Prefecture.)

 

枝うてる落栗の音まぼろしに値段も問はで初栗を買ふ
I strike branches and hear chestnuts fall
as I buy the season’s first despite their price

 

物にふれ事にあたりて先づは思ふ稚き日のこと古里のこと
Whenever I notice or touch upon things - I always think
of my childhood - of my village

 

冬はハワイ夏はハドソンと移り住み吹雪く荒野に郷愁切なり
I winter in Hawaii and summer by the Hudson
yet my nostalgia for the snowy wilderness is keen

 

追憶の我を乱して老妻は菜漬が美味いと渋茶運び来
My aged wife disturbs me in my reminiscence
bringing tea - “and these pickles are tasty”

 

ホノルルへ新婚旅行に来ましたと姪の孫より電話がかかる
“We have come to Honolulu on our honeymoon”
a telephone call from my niece’s grandchild

 

「あの赤坊が嫁に」われとつぶやき今更に感慨無量わが齢をかぞふ
“Now that baby is a bride” - I mutter
and count my years with a thousand feelings

 

お人よしを我と認じてわれら夫婦おとなふ客はたゆることなく
I am dubbed a “good-natured man”
guests call on my wife and me without end

 

お人よしのマークつけられ我等夫婦愛慕かなしくつつまれて老ゆ
Marked as “good-natured” my wife and I
grow old warmly wrapped in affection


 

Latham, New York

 

悠久無終虚無に入る日も近からむ八十八年兎も角生き来し
The eternal void of nothingness surely draws near
somehow I come to live eighty-eight years

 

吹き溜まる野路のもみぢ葉敷寝してかそけき香りしみじみと嗅ぐ
I lie beneath a blanket of maple leaves along a country path
and breath their faint aroma with all my heart

 

散り積る紅葉にふかく仰臥して骨になる迄埋れむかなどと想ふ
Deep in a mound of maple leaves
Why not stay buried till I am nothing but bones?

 

 


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 is the author of four novels - Go Tomas, Life in Japan, The Goldberg Variations, and Tea, Coffee, and Wine - and teaches English at Nagano University. He is a grandson of Kisaburo Konoshima.