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

    Poems by Mohammad Rafiq: II

    Translated from Bengali by

    Prasenjit Gupta

    scenes[1] / 1


    startling the splash of an oar.  the boatmen's pulling, hey-o.


                                                    she's a girl from across the river.

    the mother left on a trading boat.  her modesty

    bought wholesale by a Chandpur merchant.  when?

    how much?  without interest!

                                                    she rests her head on bricks in jail.


    sudden the splash of an oar.  cutting without forgiveness

    through the black water.  in the dark current.



    scenes / 4


    where was the need to kill the cat,

    to smash its head, such a horrific sight. 

    it was

    a nuisance, that was all.

    so, the superiority of muscle and intellect

    —was anything proved by this,

    conceit gratified, honor brought upon mankind?

    not that, certainly; rather, it was all

    comical, even if the viewer didn't want to laugh,

    nor the doer himself.


    lip inside lip, fingernail delicately touching breast

    may engender an embarrassment;

    —who can say with certainty

    that to stretch the imagination this far, is itself

    laughable.  maybe.


    scenes / 7



    wind.  dust.  heat.  at play

    the immense supernatural wilderness.


    the farmer boy holds a fistful of hay

    motionless, calm, unblinking


    and all the world and planets watch breathless.

    this sunshine doesn't know



    this sunshine doesn't know, it knows nothing at all

    doesn't know how to touch, doesn't know how to smell

    how polite and extremely helpless

    it falls, unconcerned, across the entire field


    this sunshine doesn't know, it knows nothing at all

    throughout the land the grass scatters as ashes

    on every tree the leaves almost withered from disease

    screaming caw, caw, all the marshes burn


    this sunshine doesn't know, it knows nothing at all

    how polite and extremely helpless

    it falls, unconcerned, across the entire field

    and from main street to river-bank, men's charred bodies





    Gaodiya, it might be a village,

    town, or marketplace,

    even all Bangladesh.

    scattered about here

    meaningless births, meaningless dreams or nightmares,

    the rusted muscles of battle-weary arms, plough-blades.

    with the force of the terrible flood, the burst-open ribs

    of the river, the darkness within.

    gashing the pitch-black night, the motherland's sigh.






    some days the boat leaves the bank just this way

    just this way the ceaseless rain without reason

    on some wet path, deserted, village streets slippery with mud

    some days, embracing the rain just this way, alone

    comes the evening; on the banyan leaf the destitute crow alone

    in the wind ceaseless tears without reason

    on some days the boat leaves the bank just this way




    the grass always deceives

    slender naked and soft

    it hides inside itself

    scorpions toads a legion of spiders


    the grass always deceives

    restless youth aroused

    enfolding in its heart

    a serpent's lissom strike




    in the eye of the tranquil water someone entirely without reason

    threw a rock in the meditating water

    the round wavelets just woken from their dreams

    somewhat alarmed, confused, bustled and broke one upon another

    with that a face suddenly breaking the bolts of memory

    a wet laugh, chapped lips, knocking its head upon the water

    in the eye of the tranquil water someone entirely without reason

    threw a rock; threw the world into chaos




    so much light and the light engrossing you

    so much rain and the rain besieging you

    so much sky and the blue saturating you

    helpless so helpless


    near the swiftly rushing main street

    shaken by one or another's kindness

    a small tree now somewhat grown

    near the forest's wild old age     near one's own greenness


    how guilty you are, how helpless

    all across Bishnupur


    all across Bishnupur the leaves fall this cold evening

    dust and hay dance in some light some shadow

    in every house the lamp-flames quiver in the buffeting wind


    all across Bishnupur nervous cows and buffaloes

    returning from canals and marshes, breath sharp and loud,

    walk bewildered past the duck pen


    all across Bishnupur the water-snakes wait

    suddenly the vulture flaps its wings and cries,

    tearing into the darkness.  as if someone were walking


    all across Bishnupur, across the disused ghats

    in the sheltered undergrowth two sharp eyes burn with greed

    startling the bat hanging in the bamboo grove


    unknown feet scurry across the thatched roof

    a sudden splash rises by the green-covered pier

    a tamarind branch, creaking, breaks and falls


    without reason; across Bishnupur the fearful bodies

    huddle under old sheets, anxious and unmoving

    a few reluctant frogs climb over the threshold


    in the throng of the nearby korui[2] tree, a night-bird whimpers

    all across Bishnupur an uneasy sleep descends, and then

    the cobra comes from its hole and spreads its murdering hood.

    a slice of sudden lightning



    lustrous painted body     a slice of sudden lightning

    from dreams to reality     from reality to deep sleep


    inside the earth the grace of shelter food air and sun

    thrusting from the pit of the mouth     running flame like a snake's hood


    not within eye's reach the arcane comings and goings of experience

    letting poison into the bloodstream     people say it's a sin


    the body and its strange colors     a slice of sudden lightning

    with reflection from dreams comes reality     from reality awareness


    no burning pain no grief no sharp stricken shivering

    from sleep to deep sleep     someone more dreamless


    collapses without benefit of burden     this they call the serpent's bite.

    © 2006 by Prasenjit Gupta

    Published in Parabaas, August 25, 2006

    [1]The running title of this set of poems is “Chalchitro”: a circular mat containing paintings of heavenly scenes, placed behind an idol

    [2]The korui, in Bengali folk tales, is a large tree in which gods and fairies live

    অলংকরণ (Artwork) : Nilanjana Basu
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