Ink On My Face, Ink On My Hands
Kazi Nazrul Islam

Oh mother of mine,
There's ink* on my hands,
ink on my face.
The neighbors laugh.
My education amounts to nothing -
I see "ShyaMa" in the letter M
And Kali in the letter K,
I dance and clap my hands.
Only my tears multiply
when my eyes light
on the rows of black marks
in multiplication tables.
I couldn't care less for
the alphabet's shades of sound
since your dark, lovely shade
isn't among them.
But Mother, I can read
all that you write
on leaves in the forest,
on the waters of the sea,
and in the ledger of the sky.
Let them call me illiterate.

*The Bengali original of this song plays on the word for ink, "kali," which is pronounced identically with the name of the goddess Kali.