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Autumn 2006, vol 4 no 3

Tanka by Kisaburo Konoshima
newly translated by David Callner

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



Black clouds swollen with rain
sheltered beneath its waves the Hudson jostles in the rising tide
Don't forget your cane when you go out - says my niece's letter
I laugh impulsively but reckon my age
Six children of my own - twelve grandchildren - sons-in-law and my wife
all are sound - I offer a prayer to Amitabha
Nearing three score and ten - never having met with gyakuen
I offer a prayer to Amitabha for this blessing

(Gyakuen - when parents survive their children. D.C.)
Wedded over forty years - when and where I first met my wife
I no longer remember
The means for inducing a typhoon should not exist
I listen to news of a nuclear test with hatred
Two from many pieces of trash eddying in the river's backwater
cuddle together and float away
In freezing cold her naked body wrapped with a torn sack
"Help the soldiers" - a woman is crying
When speaking of the war-end carnage in North Manchuria
grown men ultimately cry out and weep
While not bloodied people still die in environments of death
in this way many an imprisoned friend was slaughtered
Siberia's birch forests must now be green
fertile with the corpses of thousands of my countrymen
Of the truth that we carved into our bones for twelve years
young men who long for a revival - O how much do you know?
Small buildings are torn down one after the other
skyscrapers rise in their wake
Clusters of clouds pass slowly beneath - through the openings
human nests are here and there                  (From an airplane)
団雲のかげり地上に黒く落ちそのかげ徐 々に村々を襲ふ
Darkness from the clouds falls blackly on the earth
steadily invading villages
The shadow of a huge elm falls on a marsh - duckweed blooms
alone a boy is dangling his fishing line
An age when lonely contemplation awakes for no reason?
the eyes of youth are blurred
Walking the Fifth Avenue hustle and bustle
I absently finger some little shells in my pocket
Shells gathered in the sand by a young woman of Tosa
I hold them on my palm amidst the Fifth Avenue hustle and bustle

(Tosa is the old name for Kochi Prefecture. D.C.)
Gathering shells from an undulating beach
this is a livelihood at the Kurihama shore in Tosa
The Sansui-en Inn has a room where once lodged the emperor
I too am staying at this inn
Farmers who live near the stone steps of Jyakkou-in Temple
have hung dried daikon beneath thatch eaves

(Jyakkou-in Temple in the village of Ohara, outside of Kyoto. D.C.)
Cogently expressed at Uchinada
a concept ultimately removed from reality

(This refers to the opposition against U.S. military base construction in Uchinada, Ishikawa Prefecture. D.C.)
When cheap politicians and journalists blow their horns
the masses join hands with falsehood and dance
As with the airplane first developed for military purposes
O mankind - be wise with atomic energy
People argue whether tanka perish or do not perish
I compose poems regardless
This ugly old man - surely it is my face
the face chewing something in the cabinet glass
Last night's Tokyo still fresh in mind
Honolulu seems a neatly arranged town
Apparently I now have two countries
I arrive in Honolulu and breathe a sigh of relief
On a train Chou-on's red binding brings us together
I speak of the passing scenery with a beautiful woman beside me

(Chou-on is the name of the Kamakura-based poetry society Konoshima joined in 1950 - the society's red bound quarterly was also called Chou-on. D.C.)
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.