• Parabaas
    Parabaas : পরবাস : বাংলা ভাষা, সাহিত্য ও সংস্কৃতি
  • পরবাস | Poem
  • Poems of Mohammad Rafiq - III : Mohammad Rafiq
    translated from Bengali to English by Prasenjit Gupta




    covered by an instant’s nakedness. the drum-roll of mid-monsoon rain.

    primal sound rumbles up from Omkarnath’s[1] throat.

    Ramkinkar’s Santhal family.[2] stillness, motion.

    in the primal touch of skin, the stretching of sun and moon. stars and soil.

    evading the hunter’s net, the fish in a splash of froth

    diving deeper into the water.

    the sparrow’s young pecking food at her beak.

    butterflies along the house wall, tangled in their desire for union.

    suddenly, smiling teeth in the dark.

    from Joyonul’s paintings the fragrance of rice paddies comes flying,

    spreading color and air. overflowing the chest, a blood-tide of base

    the Padma’s terrible current. in every field the cow’s breath-broken lowing.

    painted Bengal’s sky, clouds, sunlight.

    all along the water, the flying coastline. waves shaped like wheels.

    every space filled with atoms. atom and space, bound in explosive embrace. space
                                                                                                          and atom.

    that dread dark of the tidal wave.

    in every blink, in every hundredth of a dropping eyelid, a blessing.

    in an instant’s nakedness, release, frenzy, millions upon millions breaking through;

    just one human kiss.

    staying and resisting seek their language.

    a chestful of contentment



    oh the girl’s tresses unloose themselves,

    her clothes fly away,

    in the flame-orange of her body comes the dawn,

    in the beckon of her enchanting smile the morning follows.

    the farmer with plough and yoke on his shoulder

    walks the ridges of his field


    the daughters gone the sons gone the cows gone the land gone

    only their mother remains


    pour the water, oh golden maiden, put your mind to the water

    fetch the pitcher winnow the grain wash the floor serve the rice

    oh she’s used up her body, she can move no more

    her flesh comes off her bones, her eyes from her head, her hands from her arms


    at sunset this wounded woman’s shadow sticks to the mat.


    the farmer, shrinking within himself

    in the husk and ashes of his dreams, roasting all night in the vapors of his burnt youth


    and stuck to the pot of jaggery, the corpse of a dead ant




    at every instant, this possibility remains:


    instead of one footfall, another footfall.

    to jump the fence of a particular simile, metaphor, or symbol

    and find some other unknown style, meter, or tempo.


    instead of one poem, another poem.


    instead of one touch, another touch,

    in the shadow of a sharpened knife, other comings and goings.

    familiar words, exhalations and inhalations, ardor and aversion, deception.


    in one kiss, the edge of another kiss.

    in one body, another’s red death in fire and decay.







    you forgot everything

    so easily


    me, a dry broken branch


    you, like an able housewife

    feeding it to the oven’s flame


    watching it burn, watching the cinders

    you sighed with content


    you forgot everything

    so easily





    brushing the lap

    of your courtyard

    the coy branch of the shojna

    overspread with flowers


    with the rocking of the gentle air

    they’d scatter on the ground


    i couldn’t have known


    or this pillage

    would never have been so deadly


    forgive me





    see that hawk flying alone in the long sky

    that one hawk alone, in it the whole sky

    a deserted field and on its breast one man alone

    one man alone, in his breast a desolate field

    the sunlight trembles

    i’ll go on like this

    with each other near

    with each other far away very very far away





    over your face the shadows of the sickly evening fall.

    moist shadows; the boat lies nestling the bank

    unused forsaken in the gentle cold the track across the field

    the slow water its thin lazy waves

    breaking in the evening a thin dim series slowing and dissolving

    the twilight deepening in love joins its hands

    in strong entreaty, surrounds you in the memory of a kiss

    fear clings to the length of the body fear settles

    eerily over your face the shadows gradually fall

    some light some darkness some known and some unknown


    the boat lies there nestling the bank alone

    of generations gone



    just inside the courtyard, on the left an ancient guava tree,

    planted by father’s father-in-law; on the north side the kitchen,

    after four monsoons slanted completely eastward;

    the white faces of three widows, an oil-lamp burning in the dark;


    on that night the call of high tide in the Arial Khan’s waters,[3]

    on the bamboo fence two spears, a hatchet, a cleaver,

    sparkling, sleepless; in waiting the night lengthens;

    with its drenched enraged breath, like a lifting rib a sandbar rises


    the tug of primal mystery, of the current’s black muscle;

    tell me you won’t go when the headman calls next,

    swear it; why risk your lives;

    tearing at the dark, the white teeth of strange laughter,


    clutching their wives chest to chest; the sun’s red spurting

    from the spear’s wound, that flaming pain you won’t understand, dear;

    from their land the three men leap and bound away,

    in the same way father went, grandfather went, of generations gone


    in the blood-clotted darkness the lamp flickers,

    on the bamboo fence hang the rusted spears, the cleaver;

    three widows’ faces with their ebbtide gaze, listening to

    the Arial Khan in the dark, sand-rib rising with its breath


    [1]A classical singer

    [2]Ramkinkar, a sculptor from an aboriginal Indian tribe, the Santhals

    [3]The Arial Khan is a mythical river of blood and courage, and also an actual river identified with the cycle of death and regeneration

    © 2005 by Prasenjit Gupta

    Published in Parabaas, January 15, 2005

    অলংকরণ (Artwork) : Nilanjana Basu
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