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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

Translated by Prasenjit Gupta [Proshenjit Gupto ]. Prasenjit Gupta is a translator and writer living in Chennai. (more)

Illustrated by Nilanjana Basu. Nilanjana has been regularly illustrating for Parabaas. She is currently based in California.

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

©Parabaas, 2006