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Summer 2007, vol 5 no 2

Tanka by Kisaburo Konoshima
newly translated by David Callner*

This is the seventh in a series of new translations of selected tanka by Kisaburo Konoshima



As I shave I see a face - grizzled wrinkled and obstinate
forty-eight years in America - in the mirror
Lingering about my snug abode
my body odor stinks
Gazing downwards in thought I see myself
my past present and future - at the bottom of my soul
"Once I had never been fuddled"
I drink with a chill in my heart this autumn night
The guy I spoke with in passing on Christmas Eve
Is he alive somewhere?
Winds of thirty miles an hour - the Hudson
becomes a galaxy overnight
Ice on the Hudson reflects the sun
and gradually flows backward as with a mind of its own
Lately my aged wife constantly grows upset
with my habit of rising at midnight to drink sake
Reproached by my aged wife for indeed neglecting my health
I aggressively hold a sake cup to my mouth
Diverse blossoms vividly colored
in how deep a green - Honolulu
Accompanied by its rustling leaves the coconut palm
shines in the moonlight - dancing with a gentle breeze
Palm leaves rustle - rain? - I open the window
high in an azure sky the moon is white and clear
The lights grow brighter and their numbers multiply - I lie counting stars
a cool breeze crosses Waikiki beach
Bluish-purple ocean divides the verdant town
a thunderhead is swelling
Outside in midsummer yet one never sweats
Honolulu is a floating paradise
Crags of white cloud rise in clusters below
as I cross the Pacific straight through an azure sky
In the "Romance Car" a bride - innocent and peaceful
rests her head on her groom's shoulder and sleeps

(The "Romance Car" is the name of the express train on the Odakyu Line in Japan. D.C.)
A break in the mist and the clouds scudding by
Fuji reveals her lovely figure teasingly
I am awake with the sound of the rapids - frogs are croaking
fireflies pass dimly by my window
Fine if I don't - better yet if I do
long pole in hand I set out for the rapids to catch ayu
Red faces glow in a circle
those beyond are dark - the campfire blazes

*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


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.