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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: II


    Translated from Bengali by

    Prasenjit Gupta















    scenes[1] / 1



     



    startling
    the splash of an oar.  the boatmen's
    pulling, hey-o.



    darkness.



                                                    she's a
    girl from across the river.



    the
    mother left on a trading boat.  her
    modesty



    bought
    wholesale by a Chandpur merchant.  when?



    how
    much?  without interest!



                                                    she
    rests her head on bricks in jail.



    wakes.



    sudden
    the splash of an oar.  cutting without
    forgiveness



    through
    the black water.  in the dark current.



     



     



    scenes / 4



     



    where
    was the need to kill the cat,



    to
    smash its head, such a horrific sight. 



    it
    was



    a
    nuisance, that was all.



    so,
    the superiority of muscle and intellect



    —was
    anything proved by this,



    conceit
    gratified, honor brought upon mankind?



    not
    that, certainly; rather, it was all



    comical,
    even if the viewer didn't want to laugh,



    nor
    the doer himself.



     



    lip
    inside lip, fingernail delicately touching breast



    may
    engender an embarrassment;



    —who
    can say with certainty



    that
    to stretch the imagination this far, is itself



    laughable.  maybe.



     



    scenes / 7



     



     



    wind.  dust. 
    heat.  at play



    the
    immense supernatural wilderness.



     



    the
    farmer boy holds a fistful of hay



    motionless,
    calm, unblinking



     



    and
    all the world and planets watch breathless.





    this sunshine doesn't know








     



     



    this
    sunshine doesn't know, it knows nothing at all



    doesn't
    know how to touch, doesn't know how to smell



    how
    polite and extremely helpless



    it
    falls, unconcerned, across the entire field



     



    this
    sunshine doesn't know, it knows nothing at all



    throughout
    the land the grass scatters as ashes



    on
    every tree the leaves almost withered from disease



    screaming
    caw, caw, all the marshes burn



     



    this
    sunshine doesn't know, it knows nothing at all



    how
    polite and extremely helpless



    it
    falls, unconcerned, across the entire field



    and
    from main street to river-bank, men's charred bodies



     



    Gaodiya



     



     



    Gaodiya,
    it might be a village,



    town,
    or marketplace,



    even
    all Bangladesh.



    scattered
    about here



    meaningless
    births, meaningless dreams or nightmares,



    the
    rusted muscles of battle-weary arms, plough-blades.



    with
    the force of the terrible flood, the burst-open ribs



    of
    the river, the darkness within.



    gashing
    the pitch-black night, the motherland's sigh.



     




    poems








     



    1



     



    some days the boat leaves
    the bank just this way



    just this way the
    ceaseless rain without reason



    on some wet path,
    deserted, village streets slippery with mud



    some days, embracing
    the rain just this way, alone



    comes the evening; on
    the banyan leaf the destitute crow alone



    in the wind ceaseless
    tears without reason



    on some days the boat
    leaves the bank just this way



     



    3



     



    the grass always
    deceives



    slender naked and soft



    it hides inside itself



    scorpions toads a
    legion of spiders



     



    the grass always
    deceives



    restless youth aroused



    enfolding in its heart



    a serpent's lissom
    strike



     



    4



     



    in the eye of the
    tranquil water someone entirely without reason



    threw a rock in the
    meditating water



    the round wavelets
    just woken from their dreams



    somewhat alarmed,
    confused, bustled and broke one upon another



    with that a face
    suddenly breaking the bolts of memory



    a wet laugh, chapped
    lips, knocking its head upon the water



    in the eye of the
    tranquil water someone entirely without reason



    threw a rock; threw
    the world into chaos



     



    5



     



    so much light and the
    light engrossing you



    so much rain and the
    rain besieging you



    so much sky and the
    blue saturating you



    helpless so helpless



     



    near the swiftly
    rushing main street



    shaken by one or
    another's kindness



    a small tree now
    somewhat grown



    near the forest's wild
    old age     near one's own greenness



     



    how guilty you are,
    how helpless




    all across Bishnupur








     



    all
    across Bishnupur the leaves fall this cold evening



    dust
    and hay dance in some light some shadow



    in
    every house the lamp-flames quiver in the buffeting wind



     



    all
    across Bishnupur nervous cows and buffaloes



    returning
    from canals and marshes, breath sharp and loud,



    walk
    bewildered past the duck pen



     



    all
    across Bishnupur the water-snakes wait



    suddenly
    the vulture flaps its wings and cries,



    tearing
    into the darkness.  as if someone were
    walking



     



    all
    across Bishnupur, across the disused ghats



    in
    the sheltered undergrowth two sharp eyes burn with greed



    startling
    the bat hanging in the bamboo grove



     



    unknown
    feet scurry across the thatched roof



    a
    sudden splash rises by the green-covered pier



    a
    tamarind branch, creaking, breaks and falls



     



    without
    reason; across Bishnupur the fearful bodies



    huddle
    under old sheets, anxious and unmoving



    a
    few reluctant frogs climb over the threshold



     



    in
    the throng of the nearby korui
    [2]
    tree, a night-bird whimpers



    all
    across Bishnupur an uneasy sleep descends, and then



    the
    cobra comes from its hole and spreads its murdering hood.




    a slice of sudden lightning



     



                                                                                      
                                          



    lustrous painted
    body     a slice of sudden lightning



    from dreams to
    reality     from reality to deep sleep



     



    inside the earth the
    grace of shelter food air and sun



    thrusting from the pit
    of the mouth     running flame like a
    snake's hood



     



    not within eye's reach
    the arcane comings and goings of experience



    letting poison into
    the bloodstream     people say it's a
    sin



     



    the body and its
    strange colors     a slice of sudden
    lightning



    with reflection from
    dreams comes reality     from reality
    awareness



     



    no burning pain no
    grief no sharp stricken shivering



    from sleep to deep
    sleep     someone more dreamless



     



    collapses without
    benefit of burden     this they call the
    serpent's bite.









    © 2006 by Prasenjit Gupta



    Published in Parabaas, August 25, 2006












    [1]The
    running title of this set of poems is “Chalchitro”: a circular mat containing paintings
    of heavenly scenes, placed behind an idol







    [2]The
    korui, in Bengali folk tales, is a
    large tree in which gods and fairies live
















    Translated by
    Prasenjit Gupta [Proshenjit Gupto
    ].

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



    Illustrated by Nilanjana Basu. Nilanjana has been regularly illustrating for Parabaas. She is currently based in California.








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