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    Parabaas : পরবাস : বাংলা ভাষা, সাহিত্য ও সংস্কৃতি
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  • 'Maybe a Love Poem', Poems of Mohammad Rafiq [Parabaas Translation] : Mohammad Rafiq
    translated from Bengali to English by Carolyn Brown

    Mohammad Rafiq

    Maybe a Love Poem

    Translated from Bangla by

    Carolyn Brown



    deepening twilight casts shadows on your face
    watery shadows—a boat knocks against the bank
    the footpath is deserted in the mild winter evening
    listless, sleepy-headed waves ruffle the still water
    the light dims bit by bit, weakening, fading away
    with gathering darkness hands link
    memories of pleas, kisses, and passion well up
    waves of pain flood the body, insidious pain
    shadows slowly swallow up your face
    half-lit, half-dark, half-seen, half-unseen

    a boat knocks against the bank—alone




    someone’s sitting in there
    that’s why I’m here, a scared rabbit, all ears
    someone’s gossiping in there
    I’m alone in an empty room, a guttering candle
    someone’s lilting laugh spilled over in there
    that’s why there’s rubble everywhere
    rocks ricocheting, scattering dust




    grass is always two-faced
    sheltering within
    its tender innocent shoots
    scorpions, toads, all sorts of spiders

    grass is always two-faced
    coiling deep within
    its restless carefree strands
    the lithest of lowly creatures—and a slashing bite




    when the wind began ruffling the placid water
    you tried to dismiss it—now the stern is disappearing
    you watched when I fell, plunging deep
    into the indifferent water, dragged down by the current
    what’s the use of waving my arms, shouting for help
    lost in shadowy whirlpools, invisible to the trees on shore
    beneath the whirling water’s placid eyes and harsh breath
    limbs thrashing and flailing, caught in a watery net
    trapped alone in the cold relentless undertow
    now the stern is disappearing—you were at the helm
    when the wind began ruffling the placid water




    a hint of shadow
    unwelcome but harmless
    is falling across the field
    it too cannot choose whether to stay
    or stalk scornfully away

    an unwelcome hint of shadow
    still falls across the field




    the sight of the still water has tempted someone
    to hurl a stone upon its musing mirror
    the widening circles awaken it from slumber
    startled ripples break against each other
    a face from the past suddenly breaks through the waves
    a dripping smile with jagged lips splits apart on the water
    the sight of the still water has tempted someone
    to hurl a stone—and the whole world shatters




    the clouds within my head hide the shwati star
    the milky way, the polestar, the luminous moon

    the wind within my chest wails and wields its knife
    a sal tree falls, then an oleander in neatly hewn pieces

    the cruel river within my body carves the soil
    the thundering of the sundered banks never ends




    drowned in blazing light
    trapped in pouring rain
    drenched in deepening blue
    exposed, you’re so exposed

    escaping the busy streets
    teasing curses, bits of kindness
    sheltering beneath a young tree, close
    to the time of wildness, of green youth

    how guilty are you, how innocent




    a tall coconut tree faces the house
    its shadow stretches out toward the dusk
    fireflies and moths crowd among the green coconuts
    a squirrel scampers down the trunk in the dying light
    brothers and sisters all gather in the kitchen
    lured by the smell of cooking, caught up in gossip, jokes
    the lantern flares and flickers
    a coconut leaf rattles against the pane
    a quavering cry—nothing—it’s futile to go on
    waiting in the fading light, in the darkening night

    a bitter face grows ghostly and dim




    one day every last thing is going to vanish
    it doesn’t matter how you feel
    wispy clouds drift in the waning light
    the wind scatters dust, twigs, leaves
    a dinghy lies abandoned on the riverbank
    a lone bird blazes across the sky
    it doesn’t matter whether you care




    that soaring hawk spans the sky alone
    that lone hawk with the whole sky within it
    at the heart of a lonely field a solitary figure stands
    someone all alone with a lonely field at heart
    the sun stands still with its light quivering
    just like us
    approaching one another
    yet keeping our distance—far, far apart



    Published in Parabaas January 2016


    This selection is drawn from two sequences titled কবিতা (Poems) from the 1976 volume ধুলোর সংসারে এই মাটি (This Soil in a Land of Dust).

    Illustrated by Nilanjana Basu. Nilanjana has been regularly illustrating for Parabaas. She lives in California.

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