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

    agun, jol

    fire, water



    in the sky, the clouds catch fire:

    it’s dawn in Kirtonkhola.


    Bhikhu and Pachi, just awake, on the courthouse steps:

    one rubs the other’s back.


    how you did adorn the bridal bed, Behula,

    Beguni’s raspy voice tries to sing.

    last night her new man gave her a bonus, two rupees.


    a dog in the street sniffs a she-dog’s rear;

    tears sting an old man’s eye as he watches,


    standing on the sidewalk with a dirty begging-bowl.


    at the tea-stall, Rahim’s youngest lad

    fans the reluctant oven.


    murky tidal waters tug at reeds near the bank.

    day broadens over Kirtonkhola.

    Bhiku and Pachi are lovers in a Bengali tale.

    Behula and her bridal bed figure in Bengali songs and folk tales. Her husband was bitten by the vengeful snake god on her wedding night.

    Beguni is a prostitute in a Bengali tale.

    (From Meghay Ebang Kaday [1991])


    wedded bliss



    you were faithless, you unchaste, says the breeze,


    slowly the sunshine rises, soft warmth

    on nose and mouth, some flies hover about them both

    under two pairs of feet the dead grass is trampled down,

    suddenly in a different voice the cockatoo calls from the jackfruit tree


    and says, you are a liar and you are an actress sublime,


    hand touches hand, eyes meet eyes speechless,

    thorns and vines play with the long braid, with the edge of the sari,

    someone else looks down, this dawn so prolonged, so . . .

    looks to find the layers of sun-burnt mango blossoms,


    you were a deceiver you cruel, says the fragrant bhuichapa,


    a solitary long branch breaks and falls between them,

    scorched and ragged, the falling kodom leaves surround them,

    you are still faithless and you are still unchaste

    says the breeze, says the bird, says this dawn, the wildflowers,


    they think, this trudging weariness, long may it last



    (From Dhulor Sangsare Ei Mati [1976])

    nijaswo niyome

    by their own rules



    the shadow knows its own shadow

    rain recognizes its kindred rain

    sunlight falls within sunlight

    wind fights wind


    fire burns away in fire

    the tree breaks the way trees do

    the blue knows the extent of blue

    water recognizes the cruelty of water


    the earth knows how pure it is

    the storm knows how much it crumbles

    the flood comes with a flood’s gestures

    the snake bites by the snake’s rules


    (From Dhulor Sangsare Ei Mati [1976])

    majhi o tar brishti

    the boatman and his rain



    with its steel edge the raindrop slices flesh and sinew

    head covered by palm-leaf hat       the oar and his naked arm


    the boatman catches the fever of this lopsided race

    the drunken speed of his flashing muscles       the roaring laugh of lightning


    stinging his eyes, the boisterous wind and wet

    the curve of water       the tongue of the licking waves


    the scouring river rasps the boat’s aged boards

    with its steel edge the raindrop slices flesh and sinew




    (From Dhulor Sangsare Ei Mati [1976])

    majhi o tar din

    the boatman and his day



    his net at the ready, to catch those middling fish

    his little dinghy swings to the slow soft waves


    many mouths waiting, two wives and all the children

    if fortune is kind, one or two silver ilish


    and at sundown, rice in exact exchange

    boat at riverbank       mending the net drying in the sun


    tie it to a bamboo post, rope upon rope; sleepless

    in the waning afternoon with the tiny stinking puti


    many mouths at home, two wives and all the children

    in his dream a watersnake that swallows all his fish



    (From Dhulor Sangsare Ei Mati [1976])

    majhi o tar dukkho

    the boatman and his sorrow



    suddenly the obstinate fish.    lightning sizzles through him

    naked muscles strain       eyes steadfast, unblinking


    splashing the waves break on       the dinghy rocks

    thin loincloth torn       water dripping through


    suddenly the obstinate fish.    lightning sizzles through him

    sharp points of sunshine prick his burnt skin


    stream of molten lead       splashes all around

    by now the village market’s opened       barter’s begun


    by their own rules the banks break and rumble down

    any fish, even the tiniest puti, makes a lucky evening


    his rice served, his wife bubbling with gossip for him

    under the weight of impossible wish the banks break and rumble down




    (From Dhulor Sangsare Ei Mati [1976])

    majhi o tar ratri

    the boatman and his night



    a splash near the deep black shaora bush

    the darkness suddenly startled quivers and settles


    the vulture’s drowsiness vanishes at scull-stroke

    it flaps its wings       terrified leaves fall


    the dinghy’s blurred shadow; rudder in hand, darkness on his face

    a chunk of sand from the bank breaks and splashes down


    the violent tug of the inky water       its obstinate current

    darkness breathing quickly in the river’s chest


    the fearful shadow in the dinghy’s stern, eyelids drooping

    from wave to wave darts the frenzied serpent’s cruel flame


    (From Dhulor Sangsare Ei Mati [1976])

    © 2005 by Prasenjit Gupta

    Published in Parabaas, January 15, 2005

    Click here to send your feedback

    * To learn more about the ITRANS script for Bengali, click here .

    অলংকরণ (Artwork) : Nilanjana Basu
  • এই লেখাটি পুরোনো ফরম্যাটে দেখুন
  • মন্তব্য জমা দিন / Make a comment
  • (?)