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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: III


    Translated from Bengali by

    Prasenjit Gupta















    pastoral



     



     



    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

                                                                                                         darkness.



    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






    unknown



     



     



    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.



     



    poems



     



     



    1



     



    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



     



     



    2



     



    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



     



     



    4










     



    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



     



     



    8



     



    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

















    Translated by
    Prasenjit Gupta [Proshenjit Gupto
    ].

    Prasenjit Gupta is a translator and writer ....
    (more)



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








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