• Parabaas
    Parabaas : পরবাস : বাংলা ভাষা, সাহিত্য ও সংস্কৃতি
  • পরবাস | Translations | Poem
  • 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



    the sky, the clouds catch fire:

    dawn in Kirtonkhola.


    and Pachi,

    just awake, on the courthouse steps:

    rubs the other’s back.


    you did adorn the bridal bed, Behula,


    raspy voice tries to sing.

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


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

    sting an old man’s eye as he watches,


    on the sidewalk with a dirty begging-bowl.


    the tea-stall, Rahim’s youngest lad

    the reluctant oven.


    tidal waters tug at reeds near the bank.

    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])


    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



    shadow knows its own shadow

    recognizes its kindred rain

    falls within sunlight

    fights wind


    burns away in fire

    tree breaks the way trees do

    blue knows the extent of blue

    recognizes the cruelty of water


    earth knows how pure it is

    storm knows how much it crumbles

    flood comes with a flood’s gestures

    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


    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

    the tongue of the licking


    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

    eyes steadfast, unblinking


    splashing the waves
    break on

    the dinghy rocks

    thin loincloth

    water dripping through


    suddenly the obstinate
    fish.    lightning sizzles through him

    sharp points of
    sunshine prick his burnt skin


    stream of molten
    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

    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.

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

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    To learn more about the ITRANS script for Bengali,
    click here

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