• Parabaas
    Parabaas : পরবাস : বাংলা ভাষা, সাহিত্য ও সংস্কৃতি
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  • If You Must Ask Me" Poem by Joy Goswami [Parabaas Translation] : Joy Goswami
    translated from Bengali to English by Skye Lavin, Joy Goswami


    If You Must Ask Me


    Joy Goswami

    Translated from Bangla by Skye Lavin and Joy Goswami







    If you ask me, 'what have you done with your life'
    then I must tell you...

    One day I vomited, one day I swallowed
    One day I touched the water and it changed into milk
    One day by looking at me a heavenly girl lost herself
    One day without telling me both my hands flew away in the wind

    One day I hid in a drunkard's stomach as a strong drink
    the next day I came out, in another way entirely, as the tears of a beautiful woman
    and at once the muslin handkerchief sucked me in with sympathy

    One day I beat her, one day I kicked her
    One day I stuck out my tongue
    One day I lathered myself with soap
    One day I lathered her
    If you don't believe me, go and ask your wife

    One day I managed only caa, caa
    One day I took on the scarecrow
    One day I adopted a pig, Oh Yes one day a goat
    One day I played a flute, Oh Yes one day for Radha I played
    One day I pressed my face into a woman's lap,
    while the rest of me fell to someone else
    If you don't believe me, go and ask she-who-is-my-fate

    One day my body was a bag full of green leaves
    and my fingers were long white lillies
    and my hair was a cumulus cloud---
    when the wind comes, it will float anywhere
    One day I was the grass in field after field,
    but only because you will come and pour your body out onto it
    yes, my eyes exceed all commands
    they roam from river to river to river

    On the river Ganges I lay my body down, like a small bridge
    so people can go from this side to that, no passports
    from that side to this came your own mother once,
    a teenager in her first sari
    While writing the Constitution of the nation, I got a bit sleepy
    in that moment someone came and scribbled on it: oh, oh I want to make her

    One day running out in the main street naked
    I submitted this year's budget

    One day I opened my mouth and one day
    I shut it

    In the yawn of my Yes-saying mouth there is no food
    and in my No-saying mouth there is no food.

    One day blood dripped down my cheeks
    I looked for my torn-out eyes in the water and the mud of a field

    One day a knife stabbed me in the back
    I collapsed into the yard before the hut, coughing blood
    the village crowd came to see me with lanterns held up

    One day body ablaze, I leapt from a burning hut
    and fell into a pond

    The next morning I was surprised to see it in the newspapers
    I got so excited tears fell, I called people, sweat dripped from our foreheads
    I kept the assembled sweat in my file cabinet

    If anybody comes to do research in the future
    they can set fire to the documents and burn many people

    Kill! Kill! Kill!

    Adopt two different techniques for men and women

    Kill! Kill! Kill!

    Since the heart has come from the mouth
    since the baby has come out of the womb

    Kill! Kill! Kill!

    In this place we must use screams
    that break the skull

    In this place we must use such intercourse
    half the body will be dumped in the earth after
    and turned into coal

    In this place we must spit
    so that when it comes from the mouth, it explodes like stars

    In this place we must use a duet,
    a song in which the hero and heroine will fly in the sky
    and the hands, legs, head, and genitals will rip away--- all from a song

    every limb will cry out for every other limb
    each limb left will caress what is left

    at last they will fail to know what to do next
    and they will return to their previous form

    Here you must use a kiss that kills---
    one that seizes and then lets live, so the lips smash each other trying to unite

    the lips of abandoned lovers will open to the sky for an eternal kiss

    If you ask me today, 'why have you written lies in hundreds of lines?'
    If you ask, 'why didn't you learn the duty of a poet
    ... still why didn't you learn?'

    I will lecture about a particle
    I will explain that I was born from a grain of sand
    I was born by salt
    and the anonymous drop of rain that watched me from a leaf on a high branch of a tree
    and then jumped onto me
    I know nothing more than this

    If you ask me today, in what phalanx,
    in what black hole, in what hidden drains of the nation
    I wander, in what armoury do I drink a cup of tea,
    against what billboard do I smash my head,
    over what big bridge or dam,
    what deer came and nuzzled my foot,
    what swan prayed to me to come and twist her neck

    Over the cloud, under the cloud
    like thousands and thousands of drops of rain
    I jumped & danced in the fields and the cities

    If you ask me today, how many buds
    do you have on your plant?

    Are you shundillo or bhardwaj?
    durlov or koiborto?
    Are you mango tree or banana?
    Do you wear shoes or sandals?
    Are you Muslim or Pyre-attendant?
    Are you a worshipped stone or are you alive?

    Then I will tell you the story of that night,
    that night on the calm grass field when a long minaret spun
    and burst from the ground
    mud and stones
    shot out and vanished into the black heaven

    From the long fire tail in the sky
    I jumped arms spread into the revolving foam womb of time

    Now I am in the last ocean after all the distances
    and the iron wheel revolves under the water
    Now I am at the very beginning of the ocean
    and the iron wheel revolves under the water
    What is bodied and what is bodiless? All are awakening
    to the robust life through me

    I am moving through time now
    I stroke in two directions, past and future
    I am a monstrous fish lashing my tail
    the water-pillar in the ocean rises and falls
    the fountain of water springs from my nose
    it creates a burning cluster of cloud

    A rope is fastened to the sword on my nose
    the other end of the rope goes on and on
    to where no earth, no solar system exists
    to where the dark ether wave swells with stars and cosmic dusts
    there from one galaxy-island to another
    a life-craft of flame floats on

    that's all, that's all
    I have nothing more to say to you




    Published August 25, 2005






    The original poem [aaj jadi aamaake jiGYes karo*] is the title poem of a collection first published in 1991 by Ananda Publishers, Kolkata.


    Translated by the author and Skye Lavin. Skye Lavin is a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop and is currently based in Madison, Wisconsin.


    Illustrated by Nilanjana Basu. Nilanjana is mechanical engineer by profession and currently lives in San Francisco Bay area. She is one of the regular illustrators for Parabaas.

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