Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
Contents Archives About Simply Haiku Submissions Search
Autumn 2007, vol 5 no 3

Tanka by Kisaburo Konoshima
newly translated by David Callner*

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



Crowds of people queue outside a museum
I remember the Mona Lisa
Transcending nations and generations
a smiling Mona Lisa peeks into the human heart
This evening I drink without getting drunk
late into the autumn night my thoughts remain unworldly
The talk of the town is that a cat had kittens
while I have coffee in front of the television (My native home)
I happened to see a Japanese on the street
even that becomes a topic of conversation over green tea (New York)
Though a menacing wind howls outside the window
I am warm enough to sweat by my heater – I ponder our times
The Hudson – icebound four hundred miles
yet its undercurrent continually flows into the sea
Wretched I linger by my window
for the morning Hudson is impossibly clear
Enduring beneath frozen soil
life cleaves the earth and sprouts a daffodil
The setting sun shines deeper into my room each day
spring calls in the Hudson valley
I brood by my window – the river is sluggish
sunning cranes wheel in an azure sky
Discovering strikingly white hairs in both eyebrows
I commit my remaining days to the face in the mirror
"Live your remaining days in tranquility" – outside my window
a setting sun illumines the mountain ridge
Having boasted away everything on my mind
I meditate by the river this morning in serenity
I awake at five and hurry to fish by the river
this old man's spirit bounds
I cast ten yards into the two-mile wide river
and await a fish – I can hear death approach
My rod bobs and I reel with an "O!"
a fish suddenly in mortal struggle on my line
Absolute and sudden
I reflect on death as I dangle my line
After half a day of prowling the riverside
I come home exhausted from fishing and relish my tea
Once recklessly cavorting was I
hoping to cavort to death
I help my grandchild gather twigs and kindle a fire
smoke crawls trailing across the lake
"Not yet – not yet" – I mutter before the mirror this morning
at my impudent face
Father takes after grandfather – son after father
conceding a mediocre lineage I compose today's poem
The setting sun is a perfect ball of flame
a steamy haze fills the Hudson
Fang-like and sharp as a sickle – a crescent moon
rests on the hill as night falls across the sky
"Strong" no longer – I rub what muscles remain
while soaking in my morning bath
My steps sink into the leaves
echoing far through the woods
I recline on a deep cushion of leaves
the white sun resplendent – the treetops perfectly still

*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.