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    Parabaas : পরবাস : বাংলা ভাষা, সাহিত্য ও সংস্কৃতি
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  • Cry Bangladesh, Cry : Mohammad Rafiq
    translated from Bengali to English by Carolyn B. Brown










    cry, the way a mother cradling her son as he sets out on death’s road
    laments
    the way a wife slapped by her drunken beast of a husband
    howls
    the way a disheveled girl repulsed by a lecher’s probing tongue
    shrieks
    the way Amena, sweaty and distraught, hands blood-spattered from breaking
    bricks
    wails
    the spring tide rises, an owl’s hoot fades in the depth of night
    sandalwood glows on the pyre, clouds swallow the full moon of Asharh,

    * * *

    scraps of iron are hammered flat over a red-hot
    fire
    kindled by fire-mantras, pyres burn down to ash
    our primeval mother
    is stretched over dead coals, flowing hair and flesh
    consumed
    a million fire-needles stitch through trailing saris
    through gutters
    through blind alleys in the burnt-out sockets of the constellations,

    * * *

    Padma, Meghna, and Mayurakkhi toy with fate
    tossing dice
    a cunning princess shakes loose her thick plaited
    hair
    tossing a seductive noose around every neck
    her lips scorch with curse-kisses of molten lava
    tongues lap blood from poisoned manholes
    in corpse-choked witches’ cauldrons water boils
    flesh
    bloodied sweat and powdered mud smear the age-old future,

    * * *

    the nameless past slips away on the ebb tide
    barely awake
    mudflat homes are swallowed by the water sorcerer
    the blaring
    fanfare of progress carries silt, quicksand
    seven hundred thousand
    acres of soil and seed, water and wind, clouds and rain
    torrents gobble up everything in one gulp, cackling and shrieking like witches
    rabid, ravenous for meal of human heads
    tasty
    female flesh, especially breasts and succulent thigh bones
    stinking
    bits stuck to dribbling lips—such morbid
    melas
    happen only once in a long while, when there’s enough demand or
    cash
    pay it off fast, reduce the debt to
    zero
    until the new-rice festival, the last day of the month
    or the market fair,

    * * *

    hopeless sighs
    in the crush of the marketplace someone’s shaking a rattle—cheap nose rings
    shiny baubles in rainbow colors
    baskets of bangles on display, a pair of performing snakes
    sly snake charmers, no saviors among them—as the world comes to an end
    salvation is a matter of trading in flesh—or humankind
    make-believe do-gooders masquerade
    smugly
    exploiting beggar women, muttering the mantra: principal and interest
    ay
    a Vaishnavite, sacred marks on her forehead, abandoned her village long ago
    today
    a beggar’s bag in one hand and the remnants of modesty in the other
    clutching
    her flapping anchal over her drooping breasts
    teeth
    flash in a tangle of vines, brambles, and creepers
    a snake,

    * * *

    rheum
    ruined eyes, ten fingers ripe with leprous
    ulcers
    sewers like dormant volcanoes brimful with lava, putrid with 10,000 years of
    shit
    squealing
    bawling of a pig or a scrawny old ox, throat cut
    wages
    for digging ditches all day: a handful of rice—the foreman puffs on a biri
    at night
    he seeks Rahima’s shack and sucks ambrosia from her battered breasts
    heaven
    will be dammed off from hell, heaven on one side
    an eternal
    cauldron of fire on the other
    mudslides
    shatter every last rib across boundless fields or
    inBagdi
    slums, in marshes, swamps—with the piercing call to morning prayer Rahima’s
    eyes
    open wide—back and forth an old turtle shell
    rocks,

    * * *

    no
    more cheap rides across the river, walk straight
    ahead
    knock at the doors of hell
    if
    they don’t open, push hard
    use your lathi, cry and cry face in your hands till you’re
    gasping with grief, let loose torrents of tears
    fire
    heaven and hell are burning, water woven with flames
    and so
    heaven will be dammed off from hell
    behold
    you’ll be raped—Pandava warriors break through the
    barricades
    the head Kauravas have fled to the forest, spears and axes over their
    shoulders
    they’ve run away—Krishna’s words of encouragement, love’s plaintive appeal
    an enticing crown
    a seductive flute’s plangent melody—trying to keep
    time
    is absurd—now there’s nothing but buying and selling, rice and dal
    paying in cash is all that matters
    Pandavas and Kauravas alike reach for their wallets,

    * * *

    cry Bangladesh, cry
    raise the flag, who knows
    how far away good times may be
    though launched
    the peacock boat is stuck in the
    mud
    optimism is a liar’s game—the vermilion in your part is crumbling
    now the rivers cry too
    keep on crying, turn to ashes
    rip off the veil of centuries, learn to stand on two
    feet
    let the water sorcerer’s curse be purged by fire.

    Jahangirnagar, Savar, 1989

    Published in Parabaas January 2016


    কাঁদো বাংলাদেশ, কাঁদো first appeared in মেঘে এবং কাদায় (In Mud and Clouds, 1991).



    অলংকরণ (Artwork) : Nilanjana Basu
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