6 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA Shamsur Rahman 47 Freedom, You Are Crows This City Contents So Many Days MaskAcknowledgements 13 Alauddin Al Azad 53Introduction 16 The MonumentSufia Kamal 25 Jahanara Arzoo 55 That Love of Yours Shabmeher, For You Love-Timid Kaisul Huq 57Ahsan Habib 27 My Business The Sea Is Very Big The Wonder Bridge of WordsFarrukh Ahmad 29 Hasan Hafizur Rahman 59 Son of Man Like a Denuded Barren Field From “Naufel and Hatem” Look, in the Desolate GardenSikandar Abu Jafar 34 Abu Zafar Obaidullah 61 My Dream Kamol’s Eye EpilogueAbul Hossain 35 On the Death of a Poet-Playwright Al Mahmud 63 The Heritage Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachtani Socrates The Pitcher of Time Fingers of TruthSyed Ali Ahsan 39 From The Golden Contract My East Bengal Mohammad Moniruzzaman 72Abdul Ghani Hazari 41 The Annihilation Wives of a Few Bureaucrats The Love LetterZillur Rahman Siddiqui 45 Omar Ali 74 The Progeny Hasina
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 7 8 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNASyed Shamsul Huq 75 Asad Choudhury 104 I Shall Have to Go Out I Was Enjoying Dreaming Three Sonnets from Deep within the Heart A Question Guessing by What I GlimpsedFazal Shahabuddin 79 A Familiar Alley Mohammad Rafiq 106 In the Blinding Light of This Century Ekushey 1390Zia Hyder 82 Startled Desires within a Casket Rabiul Husain 110Belal Chowdhury 84 Rape and Remembrance Native Land On Ekushey Book Fair Rafiq Azad 111 Chunia, My ArcadiaHayat Mamud 86 Art and Hunger Portrait of My Native Land LoveKhaleda Edib Chowdhury 88 Give Me Rice, You Sonofabitch The Vase Is Empty Now Mahadev Saha 116 Rice Sheaves This Alluvial Night I was Looking for a FriendShaheed Quaderi 91 Life Rain, Rain Nirmalendu Goon 119 At Each Other This Day I Haven’t Come to Shed Blood The Eyes of Friends What Sin Would Redeem Me One Splendid Night FirearmAbdul Mannan Syed 99 Ruby Rahman 122 Moonlight Like a Ghost Stands at the Door Left Behind Each Other I Didn’t Keep My Word Strange Serenade Humayun Azad 125Hayat Saif 103 The Red Train Make Me Cry Curfew
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 9 10 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNAAbul Hasan 127 Shihab Sarkar 151 An Uncivil Philosophy Days and Nights of a Botanist Coal Buddha and Balmiki in Airport Road The Crippled Patriot Abid Azad 153Dilara Hashem 130 My Poems Belong to No One Else Love FearSajjad Quadir 132 Tridib Dastidar 155 Recognised Border Terror Shamim Azad 156Kashinath Roy 134 First Love Noah’s Ark Tell Me What You’ve LostSelim Sarwar 137 Abu Karim 158 Bangladesh: December 1973 Bonsai Confessional Hasan Hafiz 159Mohammad Nurul Huda 140 However Far You Go A Big Farewell Dilara Hafiz 160 The Cultivation of Love So Many Days on the RoadZahidul Huq 142 Girls Beside the Road Wish Shahera Khatun Bela 162 This Blunder Wrapped in SilkKhondakar Ashraf Hossain 143 You’re in My Core Tango The Victor Rudro Mohammad Shahidullah 163 Smell of Corpses in the BreezeZarina Akhtar 146 Farida Sarkar 165 Entity What Love Is This? No Directives Nasima Sultana 167Daud Hyder 148 I Was Asleep, I Was Alone Sixth January, Mother’s Death Anniversary Promise
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 11 12 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNAMahmud Kamal 169 Chanchal Ashraf 187 Meter . . . casually IndiaAbu Hassan Shahriar 170 Tokon Thakur 188 Bird Flood MotherMasud Khan 171 Shamim Reza 190 Rain A Quickened Night Carnival Time Simon Zakaria 191Minar Monsur 174 What Happened to Three Friends Who Had Gone Return into a ForestRiffat Chowdhury 175 Obayed Akash 193 Nameless The Earth’s Sympathies Auditi Phalguni 194Taslima Nasrin 176 Dream Girl, Come By Simple Talk Thereafter Farida Majid 196 Inversion of a ConvertRezauddin Stalin 178 The Beginning Firoz Ahmed-ud-din 198 Dhobi PoemSajjad Sharif 179 Moonstruck Kaiser Haq 199 Published in the Streets of DhakaTarik Sujat 180 Party Games I Have Seen Time Walking by on Backward-Pointed Feet Biographical Notes 204Suhita Sultana 182 Cataleptic Waves Within The PoetsTushar Gayen 183 The Translators 214 Half a Life The Editor 216Baitullah Quaderee 185 Stop It
14 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA Fazal Shahabuddin: “A Familiar Alley”; “In the Blinding Light of This Century”; Zillur Rahman Siddiqui: “Progeny”; Abdul Mannan Syed: “Each Other”. From The Daily Star Book of Bangladeshi Writing in English, ed. Khademul Islam, Dhaka, 2006: Belal Chowdhury: “On Ekushey Book Fair”; Masud Khan: “Carnival Time”; Shaheed Quaderi: “Rain, Rain”. Acknowledgements From The Game in Reverse: Poems by Taslima Nasrin. Translated by Carolyne Wright. New York: George Braziller, 1995:For permission to use the material in this anthology, grateful “Simple Talk” (Also in Organica, Autumn 1995), “Thereafter”.acknowledgment is made to the translators, whose names havebeen mentioned in parenthesis after the texts of the poems, and From Majestic Nights: Love Poems of Bengali Women. Translatedalso to the publishers/editors of the periodicals and anthologies and edited by Carolyne Wright, Buffalo, New York,in which many of them previously appeared: White Pine Press, 2008.From Abul Hossain: Early Poems: A Selection. Translated by Syed Shamim Azad: “First Love” (Previously published in Boulevard,Sajjad Husain. Dhaka: writers. ink, 2006: Spring 2006); Shahera Khatun Bela: “This Blunder Wrapped in Silk” (Also in Boulevard, Spring 2006); “You’re in My Core”“The Heritage”, “Socrates”. (Also in Vellum); Khaleda Edib Chowdhury: “Rice Sheaves ThisFrom A Choice of Contemporary Verse from Bangladesh, ed. M. Alluvial Night” (Also in the Mississippi Review, Fall 2006); DilaraHarunur Rashid. Dhaka: Bangla Academy, 1986: Hashem: “Love”; Sufia Kamal: “That Love of Yours”; “Love- Timid”; Farida Sarkar: “What Love Is This?” (Also in Vellum).Belal Chowdhury: “Native Land”; Nirmalendu Goon: “WhatSin Would Redeem Me”, “ Firearm”; Mohammad Nurul Huda: From On Behula’s Raft: Selected Poems by Khondakar Ashraf“A Big Farewell”; Kaisul Huq: “My Business”, “The Wonder Hossain. Dhaka: writers.ink, 2008:Bridge of Words”; Zahidul Huq: “Wish”; Rabiul Husain: “Rape “The Victor”and Remembrance”; Daud Hyder: Sixth January, Mother’s Death From Selected Poems of Hayat Saif. Dhaka: Pathak Shamabesh,Anniversary”; Zia Hyder: “Desires within a Casket”; Sikandar 2001:Abu Jafar: “My Dream”; Al Mahmud: “Eloi Eloi Lama “Make Me Cry”.Sabachtani”; Hayat Mamud: “Portrait of My Native Land”; AbuZafar Obaidullah: “Kamol’s Eye”; Sazzad Qadir: “Recognized From Selected Poems of Shamsur Rahman. Translated by KaiserBorder”; Mohammad Rafiq: “Ekushey”; Mahadev Saha: “Life”; Haq. Dhaka: Pathak Shamabesh, 2008:
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 15“Crows”, “This City”, “So Many Days”, “Mask”.From Arts and Letters #3, Spring 2000:Nasima Sultana: “I Was Asleep’ I Was Alone”; “Promise”.From Chapman, Autumn 1990:Rafiq Azad: “Art and Hunger”, “Love”; Shaheed Quaderi: “AtEach Other”, “The Eyes of Friends”.From Crab Orchard Review, Spring/Summer 1998:Khaleda Edib Chowdhury: “This Vase Is Empty”; Dilara Hafiz: Introduction“So Many Days on the Road”, “Girls beside the Road”.From the Indiana Review, Summer 2005: Studies of Bangladeshi subjects, cultural or otherwise, routinelyShamim Azad: “Tell Me What You’ve Lost”. begin by stating that though Bangladesh – the People’s RepublicFrom The Kenyon Review, Vol. XXI, No. 1, 1979: of Bangladesh, to give its full, constitutional nomenclature – is aRuby Rahman: “Left Behind”. very young entity on the geopolitical map, it is a millennia-old civilization. The complete literary history of the country,From Poetry, April 2006: Ruby Rahman: consequently, is virtually coterminous with that of greater Bengal.“I Didn’t Keep My Word”. In concrete terms this means that Bangladesh and the Bengali-From Six Seasons Review, Vol. I, No. 1, 2001: speaking parts of India share the entire Bengali literary heritageRafiq Azad: “Chunia, My Arcadia”; Shaheed Quaderi: “One that had its inception in the Buddhist Charyapada, and over theSplendid Night”. centuries grew to encompass a broad range of folk literary forms, from the devotional Vaishnava lyrics to gripping narratives like the Manasamangal, before the impact of British rule “globalized” Bengali literature by infusing varied western influences. Within this broad framework, the definition of what is specifically Bangladeshi literature is not as straightforward as it might seem. There is no problem with recent writings, of course: anything published by writers who are Bangladeshi citizens is Bangladeshi literature. The net can be widened a little to include writers of Bangladeshi origin who have adopted another nationality, e.g., Monica Ali. But we cannot stop there, and as we try to extend
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 17 18 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNAthe net back in time our retroactive appropriation can safely post-Nazrul era, which may be said to have begun when the poetcategorize as Bangladeshis those writers who belonged to the went out of his mind – in 1942. We have therefore left outpresent geographical area of Bangladesh – e.g., Mir Mosharraf Jasimuddin, a rare example of a poet with a modern educationHossain (1847-1917). But then in the twentieth century it gets who wrote entirely in a manner organically related to the region’scaught up in the politics and ideology of Partition. Bengali writers folk tradition, since he began writing in the 1920s. An exceptionwho opted for Pakistan, even if they died before the birth of has been made in the case of Sufia Kamal (1911-1999), whoseBangladesh, like the poet Kaikobad, are now regarded as first collection of poems came out in 1938, because it was fromBangladeshi writers. But someone whose family hails from what the 1950s onwards that she really began to make her presenceis now Bangladesh but who opted for India, like Buddhadev felt as a poet and, more importantly perhaps, a cultural activist.Bose, Jibanananda Das or Humayun Kabir, is not counted as a It is fitting that Sufia Kamal should be the earliest of the poets inBangladeshi writer. this anthology, for she is something of a transitional figure. HerThis may seem straightforward enough, but taking such principles poetic mode is late-Romantic, pre-modern, even though in herof definition seriously can lead to bizarre “manipulation.” After long and fruitful career she was ever alive to the significance ofthe birth of Bangladesh it was decided that the new-born republic the historical forces impacting on our society. All the other poetsneeded a national poet as an aid to self-definition, and the choice have, in varying degrees, been shaped by modernist andfell on Kazi Nazrul Islam, even though his ancestral home was in contemporary movements, which have been global in theirWest Bengal and he and his family lived there as Indian citizens. impact.The Indian government was requested to allow the poet to moveto Bangladesh so that he could become a Bangladeshi citizen and The earliest of these emerged in the 1940s, in the wake of thethe country’s national poet. The request was generously granted, modernist movement in Bengali poetry, spearheaded by the fivethe poet and his family moved to Dhaka and until his death in great figures in the post-Tagore era – Jibanananda Das,1976 it was an occasional media event to see him amidst admirers Sudhindranath Datta, Amiya Chakravarty, Bishnu De and– garlanded but silent, staring blankly, for he had long since lost Buddhadev Bose. These poets, and a few of their youngerhis mental faculties, since 1942 in fact. contemporaries, like Premendra Mitra and Samar Sen, were regarded as exemplars by the first generation of modernBe that as it may, the adoption of Kazi Nazrul Islam as the national Bangladeshi poets, notable among whom were Ahsan Habib,poet of Bangladesh gives us a useful historical marker for defining Farrukh Ahmed, Abul Hossain and Syed Ali Ahsan.Bangladeshi poetry. For all practical purposes we may regard whatis specifically Bangladeshi poetry within the broad tradition of Among them Farrukh Ahmed can be distinguished by theBengali poetry to begin with him. As a landmark he also serves definitive impact of Partition politics on his sensibility.to define the scope of the present anthology, for modern Interestingly, this came after a phase of youthful socialism in theBangladeshi poetry can also be loosely described as that of the 1930s. As the independence movement split along communal
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 19 20 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNAlines, he came to identify himself more and more with Islamic their contemporaries assiduously cultivated literary modernism.and especially Perso-Arabic culture. His interest in Arab culture In this they differed somewhat from their contemporaries inextended into pre-Islamic times, as is witnessed in his use of the Kolkata, who had swerved away from modernism to look forlegends of Hatem Tai. Farrukh Ahmed, however, stands apart more accessible poetic modes. Shaheed Quaderi, who was bornfrom a number of other poets inspired by Islam and the ideology in Kolkata and emigrated to Dhaka with his family as a smallof Pakistan, like Talim Husain, Mufakkharul Islam, Abdur Rashid boy, is perhaps the most conspicuously modern voice among theWasekpuri or Raushan Yazdani, who, as Professor Zillur Rahman Bangladeshi poets.Siddiqui has pointed out, “lack the first requisite of a modern Shamsur Rahman is so far the only Bangladeshi poet who haspoet, the ability to write a kind of verse which has profited from been acclaimed as the leading Bengali poet of a generation:the technical developments already achieved.” William Radice in an obituary in The Guardian (London)Of the other modern poets mentioned above, Abul Hossain is unequivocally described him as “the greatest Bengali poet of hisgenerally regarded as the most accomplished and urbane. Ahsan generation.” Spread over more than seventy volumes, his poeticHabib has been influential both as a poet and a literary editor, œuvre is remarkable for its versatility. He began as a “private”and Syed Ali Ahsan, probably, more as a critic than a poet. A poet addressing a coterie, but even this had a political significancegrowing number of younger poets emerged in the wake of the because, as opposed to the poetry of those imbued with thePartition of 1947, within three years of which an anthology titled ideology of Pakistan, the self-conscious modernism of ShamsurNatun Kavita (“New Poetry”), edited by Ashraf Siddiqui and Rahman and his contemporaries was accompanied by a liberal,Abdur Rashid Khan appeared to present them to a somewhat secular outlook. Eventually, the voice of these poets blended withuncomprehending public – for in East Pakistan modern poetry the chorus of popular protest against the Pakistan government.was still something novel, and to some, an outrageous violation Not surprisingly, their poetry became more “public,” more directof literary decorum. Professor Harunur Rashid rightly comments in technique.on this anthology, that “It failed to initiate a movement but it A number of interesting poets emerged in the sixties and becamewas the first puff of fresh wind and had projected a poet, Shamsur an integral part of the tradition founded by Shamsur RahmanRahman, who was to become a major figure within the next two and others mentioned above. By then the cultural climate haddecades.” begun to register new influences, coming from the West as wellIt has now become customary – and with good reason too – to as Kolkata. The Beat Generation had appeared and its leadingregard Shamsur Rahman as the leading light of a group of poets poet, Allen Ginsberg, had a long sojourn in Kolkata, where somewho emerged in the 1950s; among them were Hasan Hafizur young Bengali poets announced their kinship with him by formingRahman, Syed Shamsul Huq, Al Mahmud, Fazal Shahabuddin the so-called “Hungry Generation,” a group more conspicuousand Shaheed Quaderi. In the steadily expanding provincial for the deployment of obscenities than for poetic depth. A numbermetropolis of Dhaka these poets and a number of others among of young Bangladeshi writers, most of them poets, among whom
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 21 22 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNARafiq Azad and Mohammed Rafiq stood out, named themselves Pakistani protest that began with the movement for thethe “Sad Generation.” The members of this group were inspired recognition of Bengali as a state language, which is nowby the various anti-Establishment movements then in the commemorated as “Ekushey,” in remembrance of the five martyrsascendant – the Beats, the Angry Young Men, the Hungry who fell to Police bullets on 21 February 1952.Generation. These new influences were blended with those of After the liberation of Bangladesh, with the victory of the alliedthe great modernists of the West as well as Bengal. Indo-Bangladesh forces over the Pakistan Army, a new phase beganA rather piquant touch to the avant-garde tendencies in the in the country’s history. Sadly, if inevitably, the romantic dreamscountry was added by a little magazine titled Na (“No”). Inspired inspired by the independence struggle were rudely shattered. Asby Dadaism and avowedly nihilistic in its ethos, four issues of usual in such cases, the naïve had been led to expect utopia tothe magazine appeared, each in a unique and curious format: one emerge. The dire economic problems that independentwas bound in jute sacking and printed on brown wrapping paper, Bangladesh inherited defied whatever measures could be adoptedanother was circular in shape. Drawings and graphics played as by the government. Left-wing militancy increased, and generallyimportant role as texts. Rabiul Husain, who was prominent a mood of frustration and despair gripped the nation and foundamong Na poets, continues to publish, but in a more traditional its way into poetry. With the series of coups that have occurredidiom. in the country and the precarious fortunes of democracy, this mood has indeed become a lasting feature of BangladeshiLater in the sixties, more young poets emerged, eager to epater le literature. Lately the threat of militant Islamic fundamentalismbourgeois, to the dismay of their parents and the delight of youths. has become a source of grave anxiety.Nirmalendu Goon can be regarded as the most conspicuous figurein this group, and alongside him the relatively sober Abul Hasan We are perhaps too close to the literature produced in independentand Mahadev Saha. Bangladesh since the 1970s to be able to speak about the younger poets with objectivity, but a few broad trends may be pointedBy now the democratic movement in the country had begun to out. There are certainly more women writing now than before –morph into a nationalist movement, and poetry reflected this in both prose and verse – and this phenomenon is obviouslydramatic development with great flair. The Bangladesh war of related to the rise of Feminism. Literature as a whole perhapsindependence in 1971 too elicited an eloquent poetic response. evinces a greater interest in folk culture than before. At the sameShamsur Rahman published a collection significantly titled, Bondi time recent international trends like Postmodernism have alsoShibir Thekey (“From the Prison Camp”), and other poets too made a noticeable impact. A recent issue of the little magazineregistered their shock, outrage and militancy of spirit with great Ekobingsho (“Twenty-First”), edited by the poet-academicrhetorical energy. A popular anthology of the poetry of the Khondakar Ashraf Hossain is devoted to Postmodernism. Thoseindependence war runs to 300 plus pages. The poetry of the who write poetry in a Postmodernist vein seem to derive theirindependence war was a fitting culmination of a tradition of anti- intellectual orientation from Post-Structuralist Literary Theory
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 23 24 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNAand post-Althusserian Marxism. How the young talents develop Bangladesh Period. Dhaka: University Press Limited, 1996will be interesting to watch. — Contemporary Bengali Writing: Bangladesh Period. Dhaka:Although nearly all the poetry published in Bangladesh is in University Press Limited, 1996Bengali, we should not forget that there are other languages in Rashid, M. Harunur, ed. A Choice of Contemporary Verse fromwhich some literature is produced by Bangladeshis. Besides Englih, Bangladesh. Dhaka: Bangla Academy, 1986there are more than a dozen languages spoken by ethnicminorities. This anthology includes a few poets in English, though Siddiqui, Zillur Rahman. Literature of Bangladesh and Otherunfortunately the other languages had to be left out because Essays. Dhaka: Bangladesh Books International, 1982contemporary writings in them make only a fugitive appearance.It is hoped that in time the significant writers in those languageswill be identified and their works translated, both into Bengaliand English.An anthology of this sort is always difficult to put together becauseof the tricky question of who to include and who to leave out.There are many more poets who could be in it, or even shouldhave been in it. But is not always easy to find translations ortranslators. That is why nearly all the post-independence poetshave been represented by a single poem each. I have tried to makeas comprehensive and diverse a selection as possible without farexceeding the limit of 200 pages that was mentioned by thepublisher. In selecting the poets, especially the younger ones, Ihave relied on the judgment of Mr. Belal Choudhury, who has amore thorough knowledge of the area than anyone else I know.The ultimate responsibility for the selection, however, naturallyrests on me. I have tried to make a selection from the best of thealready published translations, and have also included a fairamount of new, freshly commissioned ones. The names of thetranslators have been placed in parenthesis after each poem.For Further Reading:Murshid, Khan Sarwar, ed. Contemporary Bengali Writing: Pre-
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 25 26 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNASufia Kamal Love-TimidThat Love of Yours Even now the night’s intoxication has not passed, eyes filled with passion;I’ve taken possession of that love of yours the string of ?iuli-flowers in the parting of my hairthat fills the earth’s vessel till it overflows, has wilted, the world is overwhelmed with scent.filling my eyes, filling my heart, I have kept the window-shutters open, and filling my two hands. extinguishing my lamp –How unbearable is this joy, that this love is so intense. so the dew may enter and coolWith the touch like arrows of its golden rays the fearful outcry of my heart!the inner bud blooms, as quickly as grass. Dream’s intoxication in my eyes, in my breastIllumined in my heart, it brings jewel-inlaid riches; a message of hope –that’s why I’m wealthy, my joy will not perish. the distant woodland song, birds’ twitteringWith images ever new, this world has gratified me, will enter here I know.given as it is to praise, to perfumed blossoms dripping honey. Rising with a sudden start I see: my heart’s monarch,The diurnal light of sun, at every watch of the night, leaning in silence against my thigh – bedecked with flowers.merging hour by hour with your love’s every letter, will set. He has bestowed heaven on my heated thirst;Ever-new messages I hear; my weak and timid heart has trembled,my heart is overcome – so in love I compose my answering letter. pounding full of love.Warmed from the Sindhu’s expanse of river, – Carolyne Wright with Ayesha Kabir these clouds upon clouds of gentle moist airever bring these love letters, then carry them afar.The eager heart grows devoted as an unmarried girl,so it longs to compose scores upon scores of ever-new messages of love and amours.The heart fills with joy, grows voluble, so I’ve gathered hence,from the mortal earth, from the horizon’s expanse: impassioned, illumined, that love of yours. – Carolyne Wright with Ayesha Kabir
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 27 28 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNAAhsan Habib There is a stain in the water of the sea, And only pearl in the dew.The Sea Is Very Big That I will take. My river, too, can one day be in the oceanDo not ask me to be the wave of some vast sea. Rich with the weight of pearls, andI can agree though if you promise that the wave of the sea Then merging with this vast human seaWill but lose itself in the depths of the ocean and I, too, can, without fear, be one more unique waveReturn again to the refuge of the childhood river. In the company of many waves,I do not want to merge with the sea, for And then I, too, can fearlessly sing,It is vast, it has too great a pride, Joining my voiceAnd I am afraid of it. In the universal symphony.It is bent on devouring the river – Kabir Chowdhury in intoxicated ravenousness, butI refuse to be its victim: onlyI can be its occasional companion some morning, or,May even go with it to the far distance some lazy noon.Provided it gives me the pledgeThat each evening it will restore me to the quietRiver of my childhood, which I have seenFlowing in my body and soul from birth,That when I shall watch my river some winter night,Sitting on its bank, it will fill this river of mineWith a new flood tide.No oceanic cycloneOnly the soft drip-drop of dew, like a musical tune,Making the two bakul branches on the bankMildly quiver.
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 29 30 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNAFarrukh Ahmad Move the hungry lean backed children And numberless files moveSon of Man Leaving behind deserts, fields and woods. In the court of manThe sailor is back after weathering many tumultuous storms. A farce in frozen stone.Many hungry nights and many sicknesses of the sea Banding together the children move onMade him giddy and restless. Many a time Lifting to their lips the bitter cup of life,Did he lose his way in the darkness. And the messengers of death Hungry, dying son of man!Called him again and again from the dark waters all around. Materialism’sThe twisted hold of his storm battered ship was filled Frozen stony path,With sweat stained hopelessness of bitter failure. The path of this horrible civilizationThe dark fierce blue deep urged him on; Full of deep ravines,Yet the sailor sought and has now found his home Cover up the sky in darkness and invite them.In the strange unknown land. What battlement is this?Though his two eyes are full of black nightmarish fears Here only the hungry day’s flame bums,Though the taste of death still lingers on his pale lips The dark fog of poisonous smokeYet the twisted hold of his broken ship is today vibrant with And the gruesome terror of death. victory The heavy oppressed heart, the deep weary pain,And all the cruel tortured memories languish behind. And in their midst, kicked, afraid of Satan,Son of man, the victorious Sindabad has come back, Stumbles forward today the dead son of AdamOvercoming many storms, with his rich merchandise. Into the hideous grave,By the fierce sea in another strange land he has seen the home of Into the complex abysmal depth. man, a living tomb, The children proceed in a band to mass extermination.Where the dead desert mind of the proud reside, a farce In the ugly false black dark road they go astray in frozen stone. Where at every point Satan has his snare laid.Row after row Drawn inexorablyLine by line, The weak lean son of man moves towards that today.Move the band of load bearers On either side of the road I see hungry dead bodies of childrenMove the flock of beasts And side by side I find the proud wealth of millionairesWith shovel and hammers overflowing.With pen and ploughs
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 31 32 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNAI see terrible famine at the peasants’ door, their flagI see burning on the forehead of the oppressed the flaming mark They bring with them the tireless typhoon of life. of insult. Today I hear their musicMan, at the joking hands of the arrogant, Their victorious flag flutters today in the airHas become a slave and woman a whore. I only hear their voice The voice of the mild soft heartsMan’s fortress lies far ahead in the distance, Coming from deep vigorous chests.Here is only the devil’s outer courtyard;Those who walk here Let him not be tired any moreWander aimlessly in a whirlpool of confusion. Let him not be frightened again at the sight of traps ofLured by the vile serpent of materialism oppression on the way, Let him not stray again,They are today but blind betrayed wayfarers, Son of man of the future.Sad victims of this century’s civilization. – Kabir ChowdhuryMultiplying the number of the frightenedRaising the number of the fallenThey have joined hands with the killer of men and women From “Naufel and Hatem”They have become cruel huntersThe inhuman dead sons of man. I have seen many sprawling meadows,The bond of chain protests at every step Many deserts, fields, forests and crowded cities.The breath of life stops. Many strange lands have I seen. SometimesIn the court of man I have seen savage darkness swallowing up this world of oursA farce in frozen stone. Like that huge sea fish devouring the tired prophet Jonah.Now Sometimes again I have seen the moving sun,No more in this court of man, the symbol of sexlessness, Bright and glorious, emerging from the prison of nightNo more on Satan’s black mudbespattered path Like the freed prophet Joseph coming out of the dark well ofNow our appeal is in the court of God alone death.The appeal of the robbed hungry tortured man. I have seen the sea bubbling with life, stretching from horizon to horizon,I know many civilizations have perished under dust And mountains, standing erect, like the rocky spine of the trueI know many Pharaohs, many tyrannical Nimrods believer.Lie buried under it I have known all and witnessed the rise and fallAnd now a band of new travellers appear on the hill fluttering Of nations or crowds of men. I have seen
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 33 34 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNAGod’s vast creation. Many hours have I spent Sikandar Abu JafarIn the company of the wise in many lands,And in the association of meditating saints. My DreamBut still I find my thirst unquenched.Incomplete, unfulfilled, my heart seeks the fullness of life Earth, O earth,In the midst of the wide wide world among countless men. Would you remember me – Kabir Chowdhury When many many years had rolled by? When your dilapidated cottages Would be freshly thatched And no rains would stream down Their gaping holes any more, And the inmates of your home would sleep in peace On cool mats spread on the dry floor- – Would you, in the quiet hour of such a happy night Remember me? Would you remember that as I lay in my crumbling room And wasted away in consumptive fever I used to dream all the time of such an hour as this? – Kabir Chowdhury
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 35 36 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNAAbul Hussain The warm honeyed glow has gone out. Now the rule of drab colourless days is on.On the Death of a Poet-Playwright – Kabir ChowdhurySuddenly the lights went out on the stage. Row after rowOf men look all around. Strange, the hero himself The HeritageIs not on the stage. The play has endedAnd the crowd look about with tearful eyes. This heritage of bright blue skies, of lightIt is not yet time to go but still one has to leave. The colour of rice sheaves, of rain which flowsWhichever way I look, front or behind, this way or that, Like tears, of moonlight spreading like a sprayThere is no laughter or song anywhere. The life Of blood, of pitch black darkness, and the airThat once flooded the city and the countryside As light and soft as cotton wool, and daysWith the torrent of plays is no more. As calm as tranquil streams, and flowers and birdsIts current has stopped. And if a thousand barbarians Many hued, and the waning moon and cloudsRule today, in the name of real work, swinging their canes, Which tower like endless forests: do we know It all enough to love and cherish it?I shan’t be surprised any more. I knowAt the glances of whose red eyes our time moves. Shall we not cherish too, this soil, this earth,I have seen his body like a charred piece of wood, Source of abundant gifts, where we have walkedBurning behind the screen of moth-eaten scriptures, In freedom, whose air, light and water areOr, smiling in hypocritical modesty baring all his teeth, Part of our being, and whose sodden clayOr spluttering big words, clad in his We savoured in the rainy months? Shall weBrilliant red tunic and savage boots. Forget the greenish sparkle of rice shoots, The smell of flowers and golden harvests, andWhat will he do with the handsome hero? The carefree laughter or the ringing tonesThe bridegroom in dainty silken attire Of children, wild like running brooks, the smilesHas no charm for him, Of girls possessed of flame like grace?His voice doesn’t sound like honey to his ears. Can weThe easy smooth royal discourse Ever forget the sight of ploughmen onIs but a waste of time in his eyes. Fields, weavers at their looms, blacksmiths at workThe age of poetry, of drama, is at an end. On axes, potters labouring at wheels
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 37 38 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNAOr woodmen sawing logs, carpenters with Reminding us how you elected thenTheir tools or fishermen with nets and seines, To turn your back upon the beaten trackAnd crowds of other craftsmen in workshops, And tread a lonesome path in disregardOn farms, in factories, who toil and die Of certain risk.Unknown, the sweat of their brows pouring down You chose to prove that deathTheir faces, forming pools where they work? Can Outshines life, that indeed at times it canWe who have seen this spectacle forget? Itself be life, endowed with matchless grace. – Syed Sajjad Husain – Syed Sajjad HusainSocratesStrolling in ancient Athens as I movedAmong those passing cars and shady trees,I thought of you, bald pated Socrates,Your ugly snub nosed looks and sunken eyes,And wondered why those crowds of Attic youth,From far and near, would flock and gather roundYou who had little wealth and less pretenceOf wisdom and no claim to knowledge whichUnlocks love’s secrets. Yes, you only knewHow to pose riddles and seek answers or,Diver like, fish for truths amid the turnsAnd eddies of unceasing talk. SometimesYou launched a soaring kite of teasers whichSet them long puzzling. All the while you keptStrongly insisting that you hardly hadAn inkling of what real truth was. ButYour modest words, flung like a pebble orStone into a dark stagnant pool, have notStopped echoing since down the ages, andYour voice comes ringing still across the years
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 39 40 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNASyed Ali Ahsan Dark thick blue, gray like the fog, or black, Seen the sun in the sky of many countriesMy East Bengal Right and left, touching the horizon Or glittering on the iceWhat an amazingly cool river is my East Bengal Red, blue, or crystal whiteHow quiet and again how gay in sudden overflowing abandon And in the generous width of the woodlands of WesternOnce loud and noisy, many a time sleepy and lethargic Bavaria.At other times a continuous flood of subdued voices. The air, light of the sunHow often cranes and river snipes And every moment then had seemedA kingfisher or two To envelop me in some soft green languor.Some chattering crows But the generous profusion of green ıIn allCluster of Kash thickets singing in the wind ts wild splendour ıNow suddenly comeA river of words rich with waves back to me new and fresh ıHA tiny island of earth e my world is much more glamorousWith a few trees and some cottages ere is a land like a river ıQuiet, overflowiThatched with sun dried coconut leaves. , full of music, ıMyri faced, a line sketch of many coloursYou are bottomless ıThis is my EastIn the overflowing waters of the monsoon BengalA heaven of generous heart Whose likeness is a cool quiet river.A wide expanse of lifeStretching beyond the horizon – Kabir ChowdhuryA greeting like the boatSwimming onward with the sweeping currentLike the full-throated song of the boatmanSinging with abandonFrom his seat perched way up at the projecting front.What astonishing wealth of lifeHow many times in how many strange lands have I seenNumberless trees, hills and smokeThe richness of many seas
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 41 42 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNAAbdul Ghani Hazari Annie French Astringent milk. DeodorantWives of a Few Bureaucrats Hand Lotion RevlonWe the wives of a few bureaucrats Christian DiorTurn our face to you. And RubensteinO Lord, save us, Obviously middle aged compensationDevastated in relaxation are we, From our husbandsWives of a few bureaucrats. For the shortage of warm love.O Lord, husbands are Proud of the salute of orderliesDivers in the bottomless sea of files Our husbands are always in the office(They alone know what they gather), Obstructions to others’ promotionWe are destitutes through family planning Rejection of applicationsTime rolls by crushing us. And a few dignified signaturesWe the wives of a few bureaucrats Even on getting back home.From dawn to dusk Jealous at the friend’s liftOn the verge of some noble thought Profit and loss of business run under another’s nameAnd the faded pages of fashion journals, And telephoneMovie advertisements in dailies, And telephoneAnd nude pictures of health and beauty, And telephone.And the sensation of a nearly achieved greatness.Encroachment of fat in the valley of the waist, The Revlon on our lips The foundation cream on our faceThe swelling of the belly, the double chinPanicky at breasts’ decline The careful beauty spot on our forehead Grow dustyO Lord, we gasp in the mausoleum of fat, The evening invitation gets old and stale.We the wives of a few bureaucrats. And then O LordOur store is full of provisions. Thoughts of the second manSurplus pocket money in the folds of our pillow, Make us restless for a momentHelen Curtis in glass drawers, The old lover is married
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 43 44 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNAYoung adolescents’ aunt O LordThe subordinates’ mother GiveussomewoGranny in the sister’s home nything at all ıTAnd the evening invitation old and stale. at we may throw ourselves Into its abyss.On the pages of the British magazineMaggie’s amour – Kabir ChowdhuryJaqueline’s hymnFlirtations of Liz TaylorBB’s lustAnd Marylin’s suicideAnd suicideAnd suicideAnd the evening invitation.And then O LordOur body insipid at nightThe bloodless moon it the windowThe used bodySnoring husbandSleepless nightAnd tranquillizer.O Lord with no other means leftWe turn our face to youGiveussomeworkıMrror in vanity bagsıFoundation an lipstickıAnd social service.ıSavage cticism of KindergartensıOr the front roweat in ladies’ clubs ıOr inaugurtion of the children’s clinicBy virtue of our husbands’ rank.We the wives of a few bureaucrats
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 45 46 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNAZillur Rahman Siddiqui Of people in frail palmyra rafts, These barely kept afloat, underThe Progeny The weight of just one of these old men. If nowadays I chance to visitSome old men of this, my village My native village, I look around,I knew in childhood, they belonged I do not see them, the dinosaur clan,To the clan of dinosaurs, hugely built Rather their progeny, poor petty soulsMoving like demons of fairy tales, All cased in little shrivelled bodies,Breathing hard, and sinking down Bent backs, walking fieldwardOn the low verandah of the outer hall In small steps, eating cold riceOr squatting on the grassy plot in front, Of yesternight. And on market daysParticularly in summer, I remember, Crossing the shaky bamboo bridgeAfter a day’s labour in the fields In steps light as a hopping bird’sAnd before returning to their crowded And on Eid and Bakareed days,ıAs huQuarters, westward in the village ings and embracings start ıTheseThe solemn hall, lofty, overlooking men, their brittle frames ıKept hidOpen fields, its deep hempen roof, n under gowny shirts, – ıYield fearfThe lawn green grassed, from where lly to the friendly hug,If you looked, your vision touched These men, the progeny of our elders.The distant village nestling closeTo horizon; on summer eves, these menRested their tired limbs on the soothing grass.Their bared skin thick and wrinkledLike buffalo’s, bare, broad feetThat seldom knew the shelter of shoesAnd only rarely on festive days,On weddings, sabbaths or in prayer groupsThe wooden sandals knew the weightOn their hefty trunks; and later whenIn monsoon the Nabaganga swelled,Signalling the start of busy ferrying
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 47 48 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNAShamsur Rahman You are the dazzling, sharply worded speech of a bright young studentFreedom, You Are in the shade of a banyan tree Freedom, you areFreedom, you are the stormy debates Rabindranath’s evergreen verses in tea-stalls and on maidans and timeless lyrics You are the drunken lashesYou are Kazi Nazrul shaking his shaggy mane, of summer thunderstorms a great-souled man in the grip across the horizon of creative exaltation Freedom, you areYou are the bright-eyed crowd the broad chest of the shoreless Meghna at the Shaheed Minar at the monsoon’s height on International Mother Language Day Freedom, you areYou are the militant the inviting velvet texture flag-waving demonstration of father’s prayer mat resounding with slogans Freedom, you areFreedom, you are the undulations on mother’s spotless sari the peasant’s smile drying in the courtyard in a field of lush crops Freedom, you areYou are the village girl’s the colour of henna carefree swim across a pond on my sister’s soft palms under the midday sun Freedom, you areFreedom, you are the colourful star-bright poster the sunburnt biceps in my friend’s hand of a young worker Freedom, you areYou are the freedom fighter’s eyes the housewife’s glossy black hair glinting in the dark hanging free at the desolate frontier You are the wind’s wild energy,
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 49 50 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA the little boy’s colourful kurta, dreams at times of cradles, sunlight on the little girl’s soft cheek ogles the pretty girl standing quietly on the verandah.Freedom, you are In scorching April or monsoon drenched June the arbour in the garden, the koel’s song, This city puts its mad shoulder to the wheelsglistening leaves on ancient banyan trees, Of pushcarts, makes for the brothel at nightfall, the poetry notebook, to scribble as I please Burning with desire to celebrate the flesh, This city is syphilitic, it tosses and turns – Kaiser Haq between the white walls of a hospital ward, This city is a suppliant at the pir’s doorstep,Crows wears charms and talismans on its arms, round its neck,No footprints on the dirt track Day and night this city vomits blood,No cow or cowherd in the pastures never tires of funeral processions,The ragged dykes desolate This city tears its hair in a frenzy, dashes its headRoadside trees hushed and all on the walls of dark prison cells,Around in naked sunlight This city rolls in the dust, knowing hungerCrows flapping wings, crows, only crows. as life’s solitary truth, – Kaiser Haq This city crowds into political rallies, its heart tattooed with postersThis City becomes an El Greco reaching for lofty azure, This city daily wrestles with the wolf with many faces.This city holds out a wizened hand to the tourist, – Kaiser Haq wears a patched kurta, limps barefoot, gambles on horses, quaffs palm beer by the pitcher, So Many Days squats with splayed legs, jokes, picks lice from its soul, shakes off bed bugs, One, two, three, the days go by,This city is a cut purse, scoots at the sight I am gashed by their cold razor edge. of a policeman, looks about with eyes like the flaming moon One, two, three, the days go by,This city raves deliriously, teases with riddles, Yet there’s no sign of you, bursts into lusty song, sheds the sweat You don’t come and stand leaning against the door frame of its brow on its feet in tireless factories, Or brushing back a wanton lock from the forehead
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 51 52 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNAAsk, ‘And how are you? Won’t you ever To rose water and loud lament,Come again?’ See, loneliness sportively proffers her beaker I lie supine with sightless eyesAnd I drain it to the lees. My warm hands While the man who will wash meTouch the bed, chair, wall, the sapling Scratches his ample behind.In the courtyard, and everywhere meet The youthfulness of the lissome maiden,The absence of your dazzling body. her firm breasts untouched by grief, No longer inspires me to chantI stand facing the scimitar of despair, Nonsense rhymes in praise of life.Like a youth offering his breast to the oppressor’s bayonet.Without your visits this room is a tomb You can cover me head to foot with flowers,Overgrown with wild grass My finger won’t rise in admonishment. I’ll shortly board a truckWhere a desolate wind sings a ceaseless lament; For a visit to Banani.*An ancient skeleton shouts bizarre slogans, A light breeze will touch my lifeless bones.Busy termites swarm among its ribs. I am the broken nest of a weaver bird,Whenever you step into this room, the old door frame Dreamless and terribly lonely on the long verandah.Laughs merrily, on the instant the window curtain If you wish to deck me up like a bridegroomTurns into a nautch girl; I grow happy as a birthday – Go ahead, I won’t say noFlickering candle light and the Moonlight Sonata Do as you please, only don’tUnobtrusively transform all into a garden. Alter my face too much with collyriumAnd when you leave, my heart is likeA crematorium on a wintry evening. Or any embalming cosmetic. Just see that I am Just as I am; don’t let another face – Kaiser Haq Emerge through the lineaments of mine. Look! The old maskMask Under whose pressureShower me with petals, I passed my whole life,Heap bouquets around me, a wearisome handmaiden of anxiety,I won’t complain. Unable to move, Has peeled off at last.I won’t ask you to stop For God’s sake don’tNor, if butterflies or swarms of flies Fix on me another oppressive mask.Settle on my nose, can I brush them away. – Kaiser HaqIndifferent to scent of jasmine and benjarnin, * An affluent locality of Dhaka.
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 53 54 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNAAlauddin Al Azad Has anyone seen such a death Where no one laments aloudThe Monument Where only the sitar turns into the Gorgeous stream of a mighty waterfall,Have they destroyed your memorial minaret? Where the season of many words Don’t you fear, comrade, Leads the pen on to an era of Poetry? We are still here Have they destroyed your brick minaret?A family of ten million, alert and wide awake. Well, let them. We forty million masons The base that no emperor Have built a minaret with a violin’s tune Could ever crush And the bright colours of our purple heart. At whose feetThe diamond crown, the blue proclamation, The lives of the martyrs float like islandsThe naked sabre and the tempestuous cavalry In the dark deep eyes of Have crumbled into dust. Rainbows and palash flowers We have etched for you their namesWe are that simple hero, that unique crowd, Through the agesWe who work in fields, In the foamy stones of love. Row on rivers, Labour in factories! That is why, comradHave they destroyed your brick minaret? , ıOn the granite peak of ouWell, let them. Don’t you fear, comrade, thousand fistsıShines lik We a family of ten million the sun Are alert and wide awake. The sun of a mighty pledge. – Kabir ChowdhuryWhat kind of a death is this?Has anyone seen such a death Where no one weeps at the head Of the departed?Where all sorrow and pain from the Himalayas to the sea Only come together and blossomInto the colour of a single flag?What kind of a death is this?
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 55 56 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNAJahanara Arzoo to give your sad mother, brothers and sisters some little comfort in return –Shabmeher,* For You And perhaps a few days later(On the tragic death of Shabmeher, a young girl raped.) those same hands would be adorned with henna patterns – you’d wearIf from this pen of mine, though only for a moment, a new red saree, ornaments at ankles and ears,bullets and grenades instead of ink poured out – youth’s first monsoon freshet rising in those eyes of yours;then I could wreak vengeance on those beasts holding your husband’s hand and crossing the tiny yardin human visage. under the burning lamp of the moon, you too would ascendIf instead of ink, my pen blazed with tremendous fire – to the bridal room; with pure offspring as fruit,then I would burn to ash that mountain of sin you too would be in days to come a happy lover, wife and mother.piling up for ages. But what cruel fate’s beastly pawShabmeher, do you know how many nights I have not slept has snatched you away in a momentremembering that innocent from your long-desired self, to that morgue forever-sleeping face of yours – where, swathed in a white shroud,as if I saw your blossoming soft face in the faces in a moment you’ve vanished from our sight;of daughters and young girls in all our homes and spreading your wings in the distance you’ve flown away, – how unparalleled, how pure – a pure white swan.Exactly like reflections of your faceare those faces radiant with celestial beauty, Shabmeher, how I wish that from these powerless wordsinnocent and lovely as green new leaves. bullets would pour forth instead of ink – if only for a while,Shabmeher, do you know how the striped sari yes, if only for a while.draped around your blooming young bodywas hanging in wait like a noose – – Carolyne Wright with Farida Sarkar and Ayesha Kabirif only all those beasts could be strung up there.But the ink of this powerless pen of mine * Shabmeher was a Bangladeshi girl, about thirteen or fourteen years old, fromis capable of nothing, Shabmeher! a poor village family. She was lured into prostitution when a familyShabmeher, the blue pea-blossoms twined lovingly acquaintance promised her mother that he would arrange a good job for the daughter. The man took Shabmeher to Tanbazar, a town in the Narayanganjaround your feet, the juicy kul-fruits district near Dhaka, notorious for its brothels and other criminal activities. gathered in the folds at your waist, When the horrified girl realized what her “job” was to be, she protested andthe guava half-eaten by bats refused to cooperate. The procurer and his henchmen gang-raped her and was still clutched in your hand. beat her to death. Her story was dramatized in a short film produced byThe two young hands that wanted to labor all day long Dhaka University in 1989, based on this poem by Jahanara Arzoo.
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 57 58 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNAKaisul Huq His tumultuous emotions. His firm feelings of solidarity,My Business All man’s thoughts and ideas – -All, allTo make words meaningful is my business. Are built of the strangeBy adding words to words I build sentences, Bottomless empire of dreamladen words.A strange and mysterious garden of sentences. This garden of words, and the words within wordsSometimes the ordered words of the sentences That are going on working ceaselessly turn out to be soldiers, In the deep recesses of the human heart;Sometimes they become forlorn wandering lovers. Into that garden of wordsAt other times they grow into I demand my right of admittance, shining faces in a procession; For to make words meaningfulThey sparkle in slogans and posters: is my only business. it is a wonderful art gallery – Kabir ChowdhuryBorn of the artist’s deepest devotion. The Wonder Bridge of WordsThis garden of sentences is all my asset.I lay it out, dress it up, None of us could tell design and decorate it just as I please. When you and I came up the wonderful bridge of wordsSome pictures are after my heart, And stood close to each other. some are not.There lie about many many incomplete ones. In the secret depth of our hearts A light shone – the light of an intimate embrace.Joy and sadness lie cheek by jowl Wiping out all the lines that kept us apart.Close to each other in the depth of sound. Words brought us together on a smooth level plain.Words inside sentences – We grew intimateWords, words, like the waves on the bosom of a river,Till the end only words remain, like the silvery light on the back of a fish,At the beginning of everything like the blue deep silence of the sky. and at the very end. Climbing the wonder bridge of words we came thus close to each other.The rise and fall of man, – Kabir Chowdhury
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 59 60 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNAHasan Hafizur Rahman in their granary. All this time, won’tLike a Denuded Barren Field my dream images take shape even once?This world is like a denuded barren field Shall I inextricably merge with the harvests in some stormy night of yesteryears?There is not a blade of grass Like a bubble, noiselessly, leaving no trace? that I can clutch Is this world like a denuded barren fieldAnd if some strange storm comes in some stormy night? and whirls me away – Kabir ChowdhuryNone will be there to know about it.I long ceaselessly to see my forefathers Look, in the Desolate Garden in my dreams Look, in the desolate garden stretch the dead pale grassI want to see what they looked like, And dull eyes without lashes. The unceasing breathWhat hopes they cherished Of nature blows all around. Cracks gape in their breasts In the bosom of the earth. There is no spring anywhere,Before they disappeared. No water far or near, the never-ending sourceI long to know all these. Gushing out from the high hills is empty and lifeless.I have come floating in the current Shall we not get a grain of happiness in the final hour, of progeny, Water to quench our thirst in some home, meadow or port,Who knows how far this current will run? To fill our heart with divine bliss?Ah! if I knew its beginning and its end! In the tattered days of longing, will there be onlyI step on the lovely grass, Falling leaves fluttering in dust storms, the marble song of death,I open my eyes in the midst of greenery. Only the stony vigil of frustration? Shall we only seeLight and darkness count the petals A rocky wooden face? Would we never know of my life. What heavenly taste lay in fruits and grains,One day, I know, they will have done Or what celestial breeze moved the painted veil of love? their counting Homeless, ever hoping, wearing youth’s cloakAnd then wiping their hands We only look at life’s senility. they will gather the harvest – Kabir Chowdhury
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 61 62 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNAAbu Zafar Obaidullah The naked female body is bathed in moonlight, Darkness is her shelter,Kamol’s Eye Or a noose around her neck. Why did they take Kamol’s eye, blood, heart?Know Kamol? That’s a question I put to you all.Sturdy handsome physique, shining eyes – Quazi Mostain BillahSharp, radiant like the mid day sun.A bullet EpilogueTore awayKamol’s right eye. Vainly have I roamed all these yearsOr my friend by the seashore and the fountain.Who had a learned conscientious heart Vainly have I looked for a placeThat has been devoured by dogs, jackals, now fugitives where I could find a little solace for my lacerated soul.And many more friends of yours and mine,Whose veins were like Krishnachura At last when I begged of the dark nightAre silent now the boon of sleep,In the fresh thunder of sonorous blood. Icy death sidled up to me and with his cruel smile said,Why did they take I have come, my beloved!Kamol’s eye, blood, heart,I haven’t asked that – Kabir ChowdhuryRecently a mother has sold her babyBecause she needs rice.In Tulshi’s ghat, a mere dot of a village,The son in low has come for a visit,So the mother in law has killed herself.Is it because the Subarna gram has disappeared?Then go round on a tripSee, on the verandah or the courtyardOr at the tank ghat
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 63 64 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNAAl Mahmud ameless desire To read out one of my poems flowed in my veinsEloi Eloi Lama Sabachtani Like the quick, restless beat of blood. A Hebrew cry spouted through myI went out to go somewhere, Crucified heart like a fierce jet of blood,My clothes washed clean, Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachtani.At least clean enough for a visitTo a friendly rendezvous; There is a lock everywhereThe punjabi still smacked of the warm sun. On all my destinations.I had some small coins in my pocket, – M. Harunur RashidA new poem written that morningAnd a few cheap cigarettes. The Pitcher of Time‘Where could I go now?’I wondered. How long shall I reluctantly keep open my scene drinking‘Shaheed is at the Television, thirsty eyes ?Shamsur Rahman has turned journalist, Everything grows weary, even nature descendsElderly Jafar happily bets on sleek horses, in the faraway fathomless darkness.And I am not good either at Hasan’s art, What is then left, Oh sky, Oh veil?Drawing floral designs over the blue texture How long shall I flutter wearing my shroudOf Mother Bengal. like a shawl?Arati has slunk away and has found her How long, for how many agesMission in teaching the Bible at a faraway convent, Shall I watch the night sky bending lowShebu, too, is in India. with the weight of my sight like theO God, God, this then is what remains of my shoulder of an ox?Fraternal bonds. Who makes multitudinous woundsI am looking for a friend now, in the black body of that oxLooking for a friend all over the city, with his sharp spearI need a friend now. In my consciousness there’s this haunting And what drops from those woundsrelentless I do not understand yet.Desire ıTo knock at a familiar door, Is that blood, fat, fire or white lighto meet a friendly face, ıAnd the keen, almost that drops
PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNA • 65 66 • PADMA MEGHNA JAMUNADay and night endlessly on the strange world How long shall I lie on my side and on life in this bush wearing my shrouddrops drops drops And watch the golden pitcher and the bickerings of the oxen.And then when that too is over that savage ox seems to melt into nature’s beauty. – Kabir ChowdhuryOh sky, Oh veil, do you then push aside the golden pitcher Fingers of TruthAnd hide beyond my sight?An overturned pitcher of light floats along the sky Nowadays music does not delight me any more,But none sees it, none realises that the golden So sometimes when on cheerless nightsPitcher drinks up time’s stomach; the days of my adolescence come to my mindNone pays any attention to it, for every morning I remember the face of the old man in Brahmanbaria,They see another container gurgling I see his angel face And floating endlessly by And his vibrant fingers on the enamoured sarod moving incessantlyHow devotedly they concentrate on Like some sorrow melting faster than tears rth, children, ıand grains.ıMillion in the depth of the unopened eyes.of frightened young women ıhold on to the waist Once sitting at the feet of some angel of their men.ıIn the I heard man’s unique music,r big bellies they only pine for the hurt ıof I heard the sound softer than sorrow, anguish, aseless births.ıFro love, sin, prayers, the fleshy nests come out one by one only ıt I saw how easily it rendered insignificant soul’s sparrowsıA all prayers in human language.d see how all the world gets filled up with ıe Some hid his face . . . someone wanted to take offdangered sounds.ıIn this melancho her veil and see more easily God’s throney narrative, Oh sky, Oh veil,ıShall I . . . The entranced priest burnt his finger ot become a stanza even?ıAway with his own cigarette . . .from human habitation, away fro Some child entreated, mother dear, give me the toy over there from which the sound of music is coming . . . smoke, fire, smell of spices, Someone with an invisible stroke on the tabla said,