• Parabaas
    Parabaas : পরবাস : বাংলা ভাষা, সাহিত্য ও সংস্কৃতি
  • পরবাস | Translation | Poem
  • Outcry : Mohammad Rafiq
    translated from Bengali to English by Carolyn B. Brown

    stunned midnight—this vulture-rain wails on and on
    cloud-devouring demon

    miles on end of benumbed jute fields
    howling jackals, grumbling thunder
    dark rows of hurricane lanterns

    a face—from long ago—whose is it? grasping arms, shocked breasts
    darkness-battered winds rip up bamboo and thatch
    whooping, cackling, whipping soaked saris from unsuspecting bodies

    with heart-rending cries Jamuna’s water-ribs crush and


    fistfuls of counterfeit words stutter and wheeze

    ducks wedge their bills in the mud and doze

    this sense of guilt
    Joynal—in sun and rain, in clouds and mud—
    a chiseled body, arms sharp as palm leaves

    no trace of a grave, just some muddy grass
    a slight hollow spot, stagnant water, arrested air

    a life’s fading signature—here one day, gone the next
    a summons—moss-choked face of an old friend—haunted, afraid

    that taste of a kiss

    pushing toward the ghat through clumps of water hyancinths
    walking back beneath the bokul trees after a bath

    both hands spilling over with mud-spattered flowers
    gathered along the way

    forehead grazed by a rueful kiss

    the last boat of the day has left the marketplace
    abandoning the crowd of customers at the landing
    knee-deep in rising water—hair unbraiding

    in the roaring monsoon—murky water
    under the pond scum—bokul blossoms lying in drifts
    forehead grazed by a salty kiss, hot and bitter

    this is a lifelong promise

    that never made it back home

    each home has an address—to bless with incense and dung
    awnings around the courtyard—under the moon

    an evening breeze flits through the vegetable patch
    into the bamboo—spreading the head-spinning
    fragrance of kamini
    a plate heaped with rice—a sprig
    of jasmine tucked in a knot of hair
    where the starlit sky joins the riverbank
    dawn’s perfume can be caught in the palm of a hand

    black water laps the edge of a brimful pond
    spilling tears in secret

    a darkening flood of homeless mysteries

    what’s left?—the ledger says zero—nothing

    someone’s still using the black dregs to paint blood’s delirious drone
    flood-borne words whisper endlessly behind the back of the backs of words
    on faded hand-embroidered quilts

    the stitching inches along

    yesterday a boat went drifting by with its net
    sail and tether

    unfurling the sail in the hollow wind, a forlorn fisherman
    sits alone on the ceaselessly weeping water

    raindrops keep dripping on Agunmukha, the fire-faced river
    water heatless as the ashes of shooting stars

    tonight jute fields are drowning in the drunken rain
    hurricane lanterns outline face after frightened face
    shivering breasts, mud-coated thighs
    Jamuna’s water-soaked ribs crack, raising a wordless
    neverending cry
    frozen fodder—burden of guilt

    these are
    exhausted nightmares

    schools of slippery fish vanished long ago
    buried under the silt

    muddy whirlpools spawn counterspinning whirlpools of mud

    cached weapons rust when the war ends
    bodies get rusty too

    Amin’s arthritic hands seek warmth just as muscular hands
    seek a fire in winter—a sparklike touch on a bare arm—vines
    that entwine trees and bind their leafy crowns together

    Sakhina’s husband has gone and sold her at some other market
    to a man from a foreign land

    even so, you know, Sakhina couldn’t forget that bastard’s face
    or the stinging poison of his lips

    Beluya’s eyes, Fatema’s smile

    Sakhina begins to whimper—a stray-dog sort of whimper

    the stray dogs are crying
    ceaseless rain swamps the night

    a pair of vultures are crying

    all this noise and weeping

    with no shores, no banks—oh, hear that faraway
    wail—that unbroken sound—it’s only Padma’s ribs cracking
    a pair of snakes

    pyre and fire—coupled

    in the face of our wretched ferrying back and forth

    thunder bellows forth another life

    after all this, then what? the rain—neither tired nor tamed—

    ends too, leaving only the stunned midnight

    and a hoarse cry—solitary and restless

    Published in Parabaas January 2016

    The poem ডাক first appeared in মেঘে এবং কাদায় (In Mud and Clouds, 1991).

    অলংকরণ (Artwork) : Nilanjana Basu
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