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  • Poems of Mohammad Rafiq, translated by Prasenjit Gupta [Parabaas Translation] : Mohammad Rafiq
    translated from Bengali to English by Prasenjit Gupta








    Poems by Mohammad Rafiq: I


    Translated from Bengali by

    Prasenjit Gupta

















    agun, jol




    fire, water







     



     



    in
    the sky, the clouds catch fire:



    it’s
    dawn in Kirtonkhola.



     



    Bhikhu
    and Pachi,

    just awake, on the courthouse steps:



    one
    rubs the other’s back.



     



    how
    you did adorn the bridal bed, Behula,



    Beguni’s

    raspy voice tries to sing.



    last
    night her new man gave her a bonus, two rupees.



     



    a
    dog in the street sniffs a she-dog’s rear;



    tears
    sting an old man’s eye as he watches,



     



    standing
    on the sidewalk with a dirty begging-bowl.



     



    at
    the tea-stall, Rahim’s youngest lad



    fans
    the reluctant oven.



     



    murky
    tidal waters tug at reeds near the bank.



    day
    broadens over Kirtonkhola.












    Bhiku and Pachi are lovers in a Bengali tale.


    Behula and her bridal bed figure in Bengali songs and folk tales. Her husband was bitten by the vengeful snake god on her wedding night.



    Beguni is a prostitute in a Bengali tale.



    (From Meghay Ebang Kaday [1991])










    dampatyo




    wedded bliss






     



     



    you were faithless,
    you unchaste, says the breeze,



     



    slowly the sunshine
    rises, soft warmth



    on nose and mouth,
    some flies hover about them both



    under two pairs of
    feet the dead grass is trampled down,



    suddenly in a
    different voice the cockatoo calls from the jackfruit tree



     



    and says, you are a
    liar and you are an actress sublime,



     



    hand touches hand,
    eyes meet eyes speechless,



    thorns and vines play
    with the long braid, with the edge of the sari,



    someone else looks
    down, this dawn so prolonged, so . . .



    looks to find the
    layers of sun-burnt mango blossoms,



     



    you were a deceiver
    you cruel, says the fragrant bhuichapa,



     



    a solitary long branch
    breaks and falls between them,



    scorched and ragged,
    the falling kodom leaves surround them,



    you are still
    faithless and you are still unchaste



    says the breeze, says
    the bird, says this dawn, the wildflowers,



     



    they think, this trudging
    weariness, long may it last



     



     



    (From Dhulor Sangsare Ei Mati [1976])










    nijaswo niyome




    by their own rules







     



     



    the
    shadow knows its own shadow



    rain
    recognizes its kindred rain



    sunlight
    falls within sunlight



    wind
    fights wind



     



    fire
    burns away in fire



    the
    tree breaks the way trees do



    the
    blue knows the extent of blue



    water
    recognizes the cruelty of water



     



    the
    earth knows how pure it is



    the
    storm knows how much it crumbles



    the
    flood comes with a flood’s gestures



    the
    snake bites by the snake’s rules



     




    (From Dhulor Sangsare Ei Mati [1976])










    majhi o tar brishti




    the boatman and his rain







     



     



    with its steel edge
    the raindrop slices flesh and sinew



    head covered by
    palm-leaf hat
          the oar and his naked
    arm



     



    the boatman catches
    the fever of this lopsided race



    the drunken speed of
    his flashing muscles
         

    the roaring
    laugh of lightning



     



    stinging his eyes, the
    boisterous wind and wet



    the curve of
    water

         
    the tongue of the licking
    waves



     



    the scouring river
    rasps the boat’s aged boards



    with its steel edge
    the raindrop slices flesh and sinew



     



     



     




    (From Dhulor Sangsare Ei Mati [1976])










    majhi o tar din



    the boatman and his day







     



     



    his net at the ready,
    to catch those middling fish



    his little dinghy
    swings to the slow soft waves



     



    many mouths waiting,
    two wives and all the children



    if fortune is kind,
    one or two silver ilish



     



    and at sundown, rice
    in exact exchange



    boat at riverbank

         
    mending the net drying in the sun



     



    tie it to a bamboo
    post, rope upon rope; sleepless



    in the waning
    afternoon with the tiny stinking puti



     



    many mouths at home,
    two wives and all the children



    in his dream a
    watersnake that swallows all his fish



     



     




    (From Dhulor Sangsare Ei Mati [1976])










    majhi o tar dukkho




    the boatman and his sorrow








     



     



    suddenly the obstinate
    fish.    lightning sizzles through him



    naked muscles
    strain
         

    eyes steadfast, unblinking



     



    splashing the waves
    break on

         
    the dinghy rocks



    thin loincloth
    torn

         
    water dripping through



     



    suddenly the obstinate
    fish.    lightning sizzles through him



    sharp points of
    sunshine prick his burnt skin



     



    stream of molten
    lead
         
    splashes all around



    by now the village
    market’s opened
         

    barter’s begun



     



    by their own rules the
    banks break and rumble down



    any fish, even the
    tiniest puti, makes a lucky evening



     



    his rice served, his
    wife bubbling with gossip for him



    under the weight of
    impossible wish the banks break and rumble down



     



     



     




    (From Dhulor Sangsare Ei Mati [1976])










    majhi o tar ratri



    the boatman and his night








     



     



    a splash near the deep
    black shaora bush



    the darkness suddenly
    startled quivers and settles



     



    the vulture’s
    drowsiness vanishes at scull-stroke



    it flaps its
    wings

         
    terrified leaves fall



     



    the dinghy’s blurred
    shadow; rudder in hand, darkness on his face



    a chunk of sand from
    the bank breaks and splashes down



     



    the violent tug of the
    inky water

         
    its obstinate current



    darkness breathing
    quickly in the river’s chest



     



    the fearful shadow in
    the dinghy’s stern, eyelids drooping



    from wave to wave
    darts the frenzied serpent’s cruel flame



     






    (From Dhulor Sangsare Ei Mati [1976])








    © 2005 by Prasenjit Gupta



    Published in Parabaas, January 15, 2005



















    Translated by
    Prasenjit Gupta [Proshenjit Gupto
    ].

    Prasenjit Gupta is a translator and writer living in Iowa City.
    (more)



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








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