Shabdaguchha: Logo_new edited by: Hassanal Abdullah issue: 75/76


Poets and Translators:

Stanley H. Barkan
Dariusz Tomasz Lebioda
Sultan Catto
Catherine Fletcher
Naznin Seamon
David Lawton
Bishnupada Ray
Ellen Lytle
Richard Jeffry Newman
Roni Adhikari
Dhanonjoy C Saha
Howard Pflanzer
Maki Starfield
Natasha R Clarke
Amirah Al Wassif
John Smelcer
Ekok Soubir
Hassanal Abdullah

A Tribute To

Buddhadeva Bose (1908-1974)

Poetry in Bengali

Hadiul Islam
Suman Dhara Sharma
Mahbub Mitra
Mohammad Jasim

Letters to the Editor

Naoshi Koriyama
Carolyne Wright
Sultan Catto
Peter Thabit Jones
Samantha Jane
Denise Moyo
Chandan Das
Partha Banerjee
Sulekha Sarkar
Somnath Ray

Cover Art:

Thaira Almayahy Husen

New Logo:

Najib Tareque

Celebrating 21 Years of Publication
প্রকাশনার একুশ বছর

edited by: Hassanal Abdullah

    Stanley H. Barkan

    (18 September 2008)

    Shorn of bark,
    cloaked only
    in flesh-colored paper skin,
    the tree
    stretched out
    naked on the shore
    of Marina del Rey.

    Its few branches
    extend in supplication,
    a beseeching plea,
    as if to beg of Heaven
    some care for its openness,
    its exposure to the elements:
    the gusting wind,
    the searing sun,
    the greedy gulls.

    It’s a living caryatid
    rooted in the earth
    reaching for the sky.

    (8 November 2006)

    The rock in the open box
    revealed the weather.

    If still, no earthquake.
    If speckled with raindrops,
    rainy day in Oranjestad.

    If shaking up & down, earthquake.

    If covered in white, snow.

    If moving from side-to-side, windy.
    It is primitive
    yet simple.

    No metrics,
    No machines,
    No long-calculating tapes.

    Just a rock
    held in place
    by strings.

    Occam’s razor.

    (15 November 2006)

    Like the saguaro,
    these organ pipes
    form a forest,
    long pipe-like arms
    rising, falling,
    mingling with
    the altar rocks,
    surrounded by the sea.

    How oxymoronic
    to have cacti
    in such profusion
    on desert plains
    of sand and stone,
    side by side
    with coral by the sea,
    always the sea,
    great cumulus clouds
    —white, gray, black—
    rain, storm, hurricane.

    But the trade winds
    blow them away
    from Aruba
    across the aqua-tinted sky
    over the turquoise sea,
    where the sun nightly falls
    into its calm, smooth secrets.



    Why me?
    Why is it my fate
    to be in place
    of his son?
    Am I not flesh
    as he is?
    If I’m cut,
    do I not bleed?
    If hurt,
    do I not cry out:
    I am father
    of my own kids—
    who will provide?
    Already I hear
    the stacking
    of the wood
    placed near the altar.
    Already, I smell
    the strike
    of blade
    on firestone.
    Here on this high place
    above the valleys,
    almost touching the stars,
    I am caught in the brambles,
    by the horns
    that were meant to protect me.
    Oh where oh where
    is my angel, guardian of goats?
    Oh when oh when
    will I and my progeny
    cease to be his sacrifice?

    (12 November 2006, Aruba)

    Large rocks
    on huge boulders,
    stones on rocks,
    pebbles on stones.

    All in little
    altared offerings,
    like the stones
    placed on the graves
    of relatives and friends
    in remembrance,

    here on the edge
    of island
    strewn with
    scattered wishes.

    Long Island, NY

    Sultan Catto


    Plenteous trees are bustling in my garden
    going through adjustments imposed by changing seasons
    greening andblooming all through the spring,
    emitting fragrances into the night air,
    producing fruits mostly in the fall,
    some shedding leaves in winter. No matter what,
    the old garden replenishes itself year after year.

    Trees’trembling branches generate tiny sounds,
    songbirds of all species nest in them.
    Happy trees, inanimate future of the landscape,
    make all sorts of noises as winds are at work,
    soft rustling of leaves in a still breeze,
    or, a “whoosh” sound before a storm breaks.
    Each species has its own distinctive sound
    depending on its size and shape,
    what a scientist might call a geometric response.

    If your ears are wide open to the sounds,
    you can hear piano sonatas emanating from their leaves,
    jazz concerts, sounds of different drums, and I know even
    the Mongolian throat singers’ songsoccupying
    their well-defined place among the fig trees.
    Sounds reveal numerous things one can’t see.
    For instance, you can always tell an oak tree from a maple.
    At the end of summer most fill with ripened fruits.
    They are generous entities, not caring who eattheir bounties,
    a prey to all migrating birds, fruit flies, and other insects.

    I have given names to the old ones in my garden,
    here they stand, trees with different fruits and names:
    Rumi, Li Po, Whitman, Hikmet, Veli, Akhmatova, Brodsky,
    Mistral, Kipling, Vallejo, Neruda, Gibran, Transtromer, Fuzuli.
    And the younger ones growing between them: Barkan,Wolak,
    Ismail, Millan, Abdullah, Thabit-Jones, Gillan, Boss, Seshadri.

    New Jersey

    Catherine Fletcher


    Blue dashers flit away
    from waxy green leaf
    upon leaf, edges curling
    toward rays of light.

    Bud, seize
    sun-warmed air
    as the lilypad-sprawl rides
    ripples, murky
    from the underneath.

    Like eel head,
    breach canopies,
    yawn into blossoming
    to reveal
    circles of white teeth

    while half-visible
    rootstalks creep
    from ooze; streams
    bubble over
    smoothed rocks.


    Breathing and breathing and breathing again
    snow veils sidewalks and trees
    swallows light spinning dreams
    demanding silence inside the thickening sky
    falling breathing flying

    as Earth tilts toward the sun
    yet aspires to winter’s darker side
    flakes multiply descend reflecting
    the glow from flats and brownstones
    shifting into drifts making silhouettes
    of the city

    growing pale growing grey and white
    veins of cold disintegrate reunite
    into lacey shapes of opalescence
    swirling fractals bits sinograms
    compacting in cracklecrunch

    life blanched
    by a frozen torch the organizing force
    that causes snow to stick
    breathing now on windows face after face
    smothering spires and creeping cars
    muting hustling hours into waking slumber.

    New York

    Naznin Seamon


    I cry a lot,
    but they remain unheard to you.
    The busy streets swallow down my utmost wail of anguish
    like a hungry bird eating up a slender worm.

    No one ever spent time listening to me,
    Not even YOU!
    My unheard stories are the emblem of my desolated soul.
    Sure you heard me, but never listened;
    so I speak to myself, holding my own hand,
    console myself in the midst of a dark, cold, lonely night
    ‘cause I won’t let you extinguish the flame of my mind.


    They ask to show my bruises, but
    I have none!
    My eyes were never swollen,
    no one ever punched me on my face
    or tortured to leave me half dead,
    no mark of strangulation on my slender but irritated throat.
    I have no discoloration on my fairly light skin,
    never I went on hunger to be a bag of bones;
    no lost limbs or injury to mend,
    nor do I look withered at all.

    They refuse to have reliance on my assertion
    as if I am the transgressor and
    give me abominable looks waiting to tear me apart
    like a cackle of hungry hyena.

    Destitute, I give a blank stare . . .
    How can I show my wounded heart,
    captivated thoughts, wrecked desires,
    shattered dreams, unredeemed hopes,
    suppressed wills, silenced voice and on and on?
    No one left any evidence except my zealous memory
    of austerity and deserted struggle.


    The voice of insanity hounds me trailing
    from past to present
    rupturing my sweet sensible delicately
    compassionate mind.
    Like a hunted deer, I too writhe in pain
    as if it’s my utmost destiny.
    Abandoned, I bury my deepest thoughts
    in the graveyard though
    the haughty air swirls around me
    like a bee to the honeysuckle.
    In a dusty world I am deserted,
    deprived of my dreamy life—
    my shadow is my only companion.
    Around neck is my mother’s
    umbilical cord, choking me hard;
    penetrating pest over my desecrated
    body and mind hammers my nonchalance . . .

    I have nowhere to escape.

    New York

    David Lawton


    Lingering in the graveyard of memory
    Through received transmission
    By way of high vacuum cathode ray tube
    In three strip color technology
    From Television City in Hollywood!
    Brought to you by the good folks at
    Uncle Ben’s Converted Rice

    Borscht belt oracle
    Spoke of the absurdity
    Of the purple car
    Causing uproarious laughter
    From his well-fed audience

    Quiz show conundrum
    Dressed in shtick
    For union scale
    Game board sliding panels
    Reveal puzzle’s inscrutability
    Reproachful buzzer dooms contestant
    To tragical consolation prize

    Ding! Ding! Ding! The blinking bell
    Declares The Purple Car the new improved thing
    It’s good product placement to have a bonus round
    With the violet object of which you dream
    The Purple Car killed vaudeville
    Made the cathode ray tube obsolete
    Ran over every dinosaur
    Left our demographic in the dust

    The Purple Car stays so damn cool
    That it will freeze your old ass out
    It does not need to get the joke
    But you will be sure to remember it
    Vaguely, inexplicably

    Like some lame advertising jingle
    Stuck in the back of your head.

    The enterprising honey bee
    Hov’ring in the sultry summer haze
    Became your endless fascination
    Seeding pure poetic reverie
    Miraculous defiance of gravity
    More effortless than birds on the wing
    Like Shakespeare’s Midsummer fairies
    Flitting about your open ear

    Waxen extraction of nectar
    Rich source of life’s vital essence
    An aching mystery to behold
    While feeding off your own desires

    As the conservatory windows
    Became the bound’ries of your world
    And exotic plants and hothouse flowers
    As close as there was to soulmates

    No Father
    Could help you

    The vice-like grip of corsetry
    Squeezed out each flame of passion
    The crinoline soaking with sweat
    An egregious affront to God’s eyes

    Your barefoot rank on dewy grass
    Would ne’er bring you Fame’s laurel crown
    Nor would dipping pen in inkwell
    Pollinate an only heart So instead you dallied with Death That elegantly clad coachman Promenading in your mind About one’s final destiny

    Each trip outside of Amherst town
    Narrowed your fearful horizons
    Each needy poetic inquiry
    Sadly deemed unfathomable

    No correspondent
    Could help you

    Only Whitman could have saved you
    Singular giant in the gloaming
    Would have ta’en you in lovelorn arms
    And whispered, “Yes, your way is true”.


    Eye suffer from a disease
    It’s called chronic eye lie syndrome

    Eye do not see things as they are,
    but for how they threaten my narrow worldview
    Burst blood vessel lightning bolts
    of outrage in my repressive vision

    You may read my holy book, and infer His grace applies to you
    Yet all eye can comprehend is that
    only those who see like me are chosen
    Only those who tap that oil, frack that shale,
    clean coal with their insatiable tongues
    Or however they rape Mother Nature and claim she wanted it

    Eye haven’t seen it with my own eyes,
    but I’ve been told how eye
    should see it
    and though that view has been
    debunked by numerous reliable sources
    Eye persist in accepting it,
    because no one (else) is going to tell me
    What eye didn’t see

    Eye know eye haven’t seen me get mine
    What eye was told eye could get
    So eye can’t see anyone new getting anything at all

    The way eye see it, we are all liars
    What eye need to see is someone
    who does not respect his own lies
    Who makes it obvious he does not care if he is believed
    That’s what eye am looking for

    If eye see something
    Eye know it is expected that eye say something
    But, hey, eye am no snitch!

    New York

    Bishnupada Ray


    a meteor shoots across the sky
    to fulfill my wish
    but what is my wish?
    I fumble to recall
    and before I can recall my wish
    it shoots away with a mystique tail
    leaving me mesmerized.


    I wish that one day
    I will break myself loose
    and roar down the earth
    like an avalanche.


    when the hills come alive
    with the beads of light
    like twinkling stars
    the phosphorescence of cities
    gathers at her feet
    for a glimpse of her
    revelations of darkness.


    the diamond blades of march
    flashed with betrayal
    you too, my dear?
    and blood flowed from my back
    and ran through the dust
    like a desert snake.


    Ellen Lytle


    ‘there comes a point in life
    when your mind outlives yr desires’
    from ‘the life of david gale’
    (a literature professor accused of false rape
    on death row who sacrifices his life for the Anti Death Penalty)


    the way she sits there w/ her pale hands
    curled over an iphone and her thickly polished nails,
    part of a picture hanging
    in a room painted a color between peach and pink,
    containing a husband sitting on a bed,
    and 2 spotted doggies on a rug

    well, i’ve been there, in that bedroom before
    w/ those doggies, that husband; seen it all somewhere
    else, and before crawling under cool sheets, looking out
    her windows onto a yardsandy patchedin-between weeds
    i wonder why are window views so special?
    a bird’s eye focus on a world outside myself;
    the sigh on an old women's face when she thinks of belt
    buckles, a woolen skirt, school supplies,
    even cheap socks because it’s autumn and nothing goes wrong;
    especially w/his mouth bent towards her breast,
    her head tucked under his arm


    ‘there comes a point in life
    when time outlives your desires’
    ‘the life of david gale’

    disappointment, she thinks is sometimes far homelier
    than out and out misery: the turning point in a life
    once cheery or at least optimistic,
    until its pitched a hard ball
    that splinters
    shattering mind and heart simultaneously;
    a punch in the gut and all that’s hopeful
    slow-leaks out of you, thendeflates
    to your feet, socks, underwear
    and a wooly sweater

    you lie in a rubber puddle: c'est toute

    o, of course it’s about love: and of course that love ebbs
    and of course its a bumpy ride,force quitting frolics
    in the sky, and of course it was alive w/a sugar
    sweet night, of course it’s the salt of Niobe
    that gave her such insight, and of course

    it was sharing themselves
    that caused him fright
    but of course now
    it feels distant
    haphazardly scribbled

    a smudged outline of life


    In the end
    their fire turned torpid
    no trigger, not even a spark
    just slow burning ash lying in wait
    for a combustible hale

    New York

    Richard Jeffry Newman


    I knew the blues song front to back.
    I was not the only one
    exiled from the sanctuary of virtue.
    All you need is meat.
    It stands up in praise of God,
    and yet you’re still alive.
    The colors I heard stayed.
    Her bookmarks were dead flowers,
    razor sharpened on both ends.
    Before the idea of awe,
    I did not know
    what to say or what to do.
    I have to hold on tight,
    or I will be killed.
    Powerful winds
    rifle through these parts,
    a price she will be paying
    until she is old.
    How is our imperative to endure
    different from yours?

    First Tuesdays Cento – June 5, 2018 This poem is composed of lines from work performed at the June 5 First Tuesdays open mic by, in order of appearance: Denis Gray, Liz Gray (reading a translation of Hafez), Barbara Gray, Valerie G. Keane (reading Sharon Olds), Marty Levine, Pat Duffy, Stained Napkins, Herb Rubenstein, Dan Fleshler, Lydia Chang, Norman Stock, Henry Sussman, Malcolm Chang, & Pichchenda Bao. (Since the cento is composed orally during the open mic, without reference to the line breaks in the original poems, the line breaks in this poem were determined by Richard Jeffrey Newman, First Tuesdays curator.) The feature poet of the event was Hassanal Abdullah, the editor, Shabdaguchha.

    New York

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Shabdaguchha, an International Bilingual Poetry Magazine, edited by Hassanal Abdullah