Water Bird
(Oliullah tried his whole life to become a poet)

Khaled Hossain

Translated from Bangla by Shabnam Nadiya

This poem of mine will be written in the coming Baishakhi full moon
when the sounds of falling water shall tremble gently outside
in the nishindhya bush.
Fireflies shall float on waves of water
like your unfamiliar childhood face and I will recall
the upward-seeking rotation of the wheels of a black taxicab
speeding its way to Bholta
as if the spaceward journey after the end of earthly travels was
natural. Because once you had desired to slip your head into the cloud-clusters
and take it to the country of the stars. Meaning

that you wanted to be a poet. So you removed yourself
from the dreary and uncertain constrictions of
everyday life You followed a jatra troupe
through all the geography of summer and winter, across the roads and fields of the lowlands
only so you could recognize love deeply
with all its veins and arteries --
as if you wanted to see a rainbow bridge beneath
running waters, the domicile of a few clouds
who had descended from the seventh heaven. When we were learning Kung Fu and
Karate on sandy fields
when we were blue like sudden silence
in the sorrow of Debdas following the sorrow of Buro Angla,
you were standing at the FDC gate absorbing
the deeper life-lessons of dead soldiers.
A flying distance in your eyes – the blue laughter of the moon

You had told me about the secret blossoms of extinct trees that were
Heavier with mystery than the saga of life. And the tender, complex tale of
losing everything through one’s own stupidity.
You said that when you visited remote southern villages
you recovered the images and sensations of your aching childhood,
in the haystacks, dog-fur, wooden benches and tin glasses
you could touch the tender fingers of your true mother.
So you rode the deep launches of the night to reach an uncertain destination
and you felt as if your mother was stroking your head
sending you into sleep as fine as moonlight. Now it seems
as if in your eyelids and in the depths of your mind
a vast thirst had hidden. So such an intimate sleep arrived suddenly
in your eyes, in your heart as melancholy as sorrow.

When I saw you I remembered the tales of the Bede tribe going
Dahuk hunting in the rainy season, of your own free will
you flowed your life into two opposite channels. I remember, last December
you told me as you were swathed in a mantle of fog that
you were writing uncounted poems each day
with your inner blood or your tears. With all the wonder in my heart I have
gazed at your stern face. In your eyes
the light of distant stars were ablaze.

I have heard that you returned to your ancestral home
from the confused bed of the wrong hospital
and the hesitant white cloth that shrouded you entirely
the red alpana painted on it were continually spreading –
even onto the grey earth. As if you were a child of the earth, child of dust

It seems in the next Baishakhi full moon, your unwritten story
will float like a firefly in the fields of moonlight.

Published January 20, 2007

The original poem [jaler paakhi*] is from a collection titled Shikar Jatrar Ayojon first published in 2005 by Sahitya Bikash, Bangladesh.

Translated by Shabnam Nadiya. Shabnam Nadiya is a writer, poet and translator. Her work has appeared in the anthologies ... (more).

Illustrated by Arindam Chakraborty. Arindam is based in Kolkata, India.

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

©2007, Parabaas