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Spring 2006, vol 4 no 1

Tanka by Kisaburo Konoshima
newly translated by David Callner

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



Naked - even the hair shaven from my private parts
I lie face up on the operating table for appendix removal
The marvel of bringing forth and brooding offspring - O robins
are you aware or are you not? - this year you nest again
A motion of nonconfidence over the word "idiot"
I feel indignation at those who make sport of government

(In 1953 a motion of nonconfidence was made over an outburst in parliament by Prime Minister Yoshida during which he shouted bakayaro, or "idiot", at a member of the opposition. The motion was passed and Yoshida was forced to dissolve the lower house and hold new elections. D.C.)

An Unprecedented Motion of Nonconfidence! says The Times
I feel shame for the ridiculed uproar over "idiot"
スカヘリ、スケネクタデー、ホキプシー 都邑の名にのみインデアンは残る
Schoharie - Schenectady - Poughkeepsie
the Indian subsists in names of towns and villages alone
Latent in the eyebrows of youthful Asura - an undying
vast sorrow - as long as man exists

(I believe Konoshima is referring to the famous statue of Asura in the Koufukuji temple museum in Nara. Asura takes on many forms and meanings, but in Japan Asura is generally a guardian deity of Buddhism. D.C.)

From crystallization in the sky
merely descending to the ground comes this snowflake
Thirty years of bitter struggles unending
O Lord allow me this one cup of birthday sake
One moment in the beginningless and endless current of time
is called "New Year's Eve" - I sit with my aged wife in silence
I hear a faint cry as I pour hot water
into a glass that breaks
Young men who met their end on the field of battle
the spirits of the dead come home - a mass of summer clouds
The passion that lingers in this old man's body
its cinders cease not to burn - autumn's scarlet dahlia
Obstinately I tried to give chase
but in the end I could not catch my shadow
In Japanese currency my monthly income becomes one hundred fifty thousand
so fancying I am slightly comforted


For peoples living on shores far from Bikini
the descent of lethal fallout is nothing more than talk

(In 1954 the United States military detonated a series of hydrogen bombs on the Bikini Atoll. D.C.)

A nation living O so far from Bikini
the outcry over lethal fallout is called "hysteria"
This misery of American occupation
the agony is long indeed says a news report from my native country
Called "Communism" - "Democracy" by name
but with no inner awakening equal as naught
Civil servants abandon their posts to gather for baseball broadcasts
says a news report from my native country - my heart darkens
A little bug falls into the immaculately white porcelain bathtub
it tries to climb out but slips down again
Pushed onto a street corner and blackened
the never-melting snow is illuminated by neon
A single snowflake descends gloriously - I catch it in my palm
melted it turns to a drop
Snow that melts so easily when caught in my palm
yet dims the sky and buries the earth
Thrown away on a street corner and dirtied with frost
is the New Year Christmas tree party to the setting sun?
The mountains on the Hudson shore are faded
the winter sun shines down but does not brighten
I purchased soil and carried it to the rooftop - chrysanthemums I grew
appear will be black - this morning the buds come open
At times a vision at times a dream
the grove in my village shrine - perhaps still there perhaps not
That the peak of Mount Mukai reaches the heavens
at what age did I gaze on in aspiration?

(Mount Mukai is near Konoshima's native village in Gifu Prefecture. D.C.)

A winter night alone by the window where I muse
the sound of rain and rain - heaven and earth are only the rain
Hudson: A Collection of Tanka by Kisaburo Konoshima
Translated into English by David Callner
Tokyo, Japan: Japan Times, 2005.
ISBN 4-7890-1179-8
5.5 x 8.25, perfectbound, 136 pp.
2500 Yen ($25 US).
To purchase, contact David Callner:
The book is selling in America for $19, shipping included. Payment can be made via Paypal and a copy will be mailed directly to the buyer. Hudson is also on consignment in various Manhattan bookstores and in Japan.

For additional information about the poet Kisaburo Konoshima, see the review "Konoshima's American Diary" by Michael McClintock, in Simply Haiku v3n3, June 2005.

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, all as yet unpublished. He teaches English as an adjunct at Nagano University.