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Mohammad Rafiq

Maybe a Love Poem

Translated from Bangla by

Carolyn Brown

deepening twilight casts shadows on your face
watery shadows—a boat knocks against the bank
the footpath is deserted in the mild winter evening
listless, sleepy-headed waves ruffle the still water
the light dims bit by bit, weakening, fading away
with gathering darkness hands link
memories of pleas, kisses, and passion well up
waves of pain flood the body, insidious pain
shadows slowly swallow up your face
half-lit, half-dark, half-seen, half-unseen

a boat knocks against the bank—alone

someone’s sitting in there
that’s why I’m here, a scared rabbit, all ears
someone’s gossiping in there
I’m alone in an empty room, a guttering candle
someone’s lilting laugh spilled over in there
that’s why there’s rubble everywhere
rocks ricocheting, scattering dust

grass is always two-faced
sheltering within
its tender innocent shoots
scorpions, toads, all sorts of spiders

grass is always two-faced
coiling deep within
its restless carefree strands
the lithest of lowly creatures—and a slashing bite

when the wind began ruffling the placid water
you tried to dismiss it—now the stern is disappearing
you watched when I fell, plunging deep
into the indifferent water, dragged down by the current
what’s the use of waving my arms, shouting for help
lost in shadowy whirlpools, invisible to the trees on shore
beneath the whirling water’s placid eyes and harsh breath
limbs thrashing and flailing, caught in a watery net
trapped alone in the cold relentless undertow
now the stern is disappearing—you were at the helm
when the wind began ruffling the placid water

a hint of shadow
unwelcome but harmless
is falling across the field
it too cannot choose whether to stay
or stalk scornfully away

an unwelcome hint of shadow
still falls across the field

the sight of the still water has tempted someone
to hurl a stone upon its musing mirror
the widening circles awaken it from slumber
startled ripples break against each other
a face from the past suddenly breaks through the waves
a dripping smile with jagged lips splits apart on the water
the sight of the still water has tempted someone
to hurl a stone—and the whole world shatters

the clouds within my head hide the shwati star
the milky way, the polestar, the luminous moon

the wind within my chest wails and wields its knife
a sal tree falls, then an oleander in neatly hewn pieces

the cruel river within my body carves the soil
the thundering of the sundered banks never ends

drowned in blazing light
trapped in pouring rain
drenched in deepening blue
exposed, you’re so exposed

escaping the busy streets
teasing curses, bits of kindness
sheltering beneath a young tree, close
to the time of wildness, of green youth

how guilty are you, how innocent

a tall coconut tree faces the house
its shadow stretches out toward the dusk
fireflies and moths crowd among the green coconuts
a squirrel scampers down the trunk in the dying light
brothers and sisters all gather in the kitchen
lured by the smell of cooking, caught up in gossip, jokes
the lantern flares and flickers
a coconut leaf rattles against the pane
a quavering cry—nothing—it’s futile to go on
waiting in the fading light, in the darkening night

a bitter face grows ghostly and dim

one day every last thing is going to vanish
it doesn’t matter how you feel
wispy clouds drift in the waning light
the wind scatters dust, twigs, leaves
a dinghy lies abandoned on the riverbank
a lone bird blazes across the sky
it doesn’t matter whether you care

that soaring hawk spans the sky alone
that lone hawk with the whole sky within it
at the heart of a lonely field a solitary figure stands
someone all alone with a lonely field at heart
the sun stands still with its light quivering
just like us
approaching one another
yet keeping our distance—far, far apart

Published in Parabaas January 2016


This selection is drawn from two sequences titled কবিতা (Poems) from the 1976 volume ধুলোর সংসারে এই মাটি (This Soil in a Land of Dust).

Translated by Carolyn Brown Carolyn Brown's first translations from Bengali were of poems by Mohammad Rafiq, a participant in the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa in 1993... (more)

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

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