Shabdaguchha

The International Poetry Journal in Bengali and English



Issue 35/36
January-June '07
Double Issue, 48pp


    Editorial
    Shamsur Rahman in English
    Sample Poetry in Bengali

    Article on Shamsur Rahman
    To the Editor
    Poetry in English
    Shabda News


Shamsur Rahman


Shamsur Rahman's Poetry in Translation

BEFORE THE JOURNEY

I'll soon be gone, quite alone
and quietly, taking none of you along
on this aimless journey. Useless
to insist, I must leave you all behind.
No, I'll take nothing at all
on this solitary trip, you're stuffing
my bags for nothing; don't squeeze my favorite books
into that beer-bellied suitcase,
I won't ever turn their pages.
And let the passport sleep in the locked drawer.
Only let me have a look at the harvest
from my ceaseless toil, the quietly ripening fruits
of my talent. But what on earth
are these wretched things you bring?
Did I lie drunk with smugness in my little den,
having produced this inert, unsightly crop?
My soul screams in mute desolation
at the thought of carrying this sight with me.
I beg you,
don't add to the burden of this journey. †

Translated from the Bengali by Kaiser Haq

I BECOME HAPPY

When you come from a distant place
And rest your feet in my backyard,
I become happy.

When you sail your remembrance
On the edge of your body and set a pair of pigeons free,
I become happy.

When you melt yourself into a glass of water
At the moment of quenching my thirst
And stare at me with passion,
I become happy.

When you make your face like a blooming rose
And bring the dawn to my sight,
I become happy.

When you take a nap in the afternoon
Holding your hands crossed on your butterfly chest
And let your misfortunes fade away from us,
I become happy.

When you place your roses between my lips
And call me with love,
I become happy.

When you come to me toppling the obstacles
And hold my flag up in the air,
I become happy.

Translated from the Bengali by Hassanal Abdullah

FOR A FEW LINES OF POETRY

I go to a tree and say:
Dear tree, can you give me a poem?
The tree says: If you can pierce
My bark and merge into my marrow,
Perhaps you will get a poem.
I whisper into the ears
Of a decaying wall:
Can you give me a poem?
The old wall whispers back
In its moss-thickened voice:
If you can grind yourself
Into the brick and mortar of my body,
Perhaps you will get a poem.

I beg an old man
Bending on my knees:
Please give me a poem.
Breaking the veil of silence,
The voice of wisdom says:
If you can carve the wrinkles
Of my face onto your own,
Perhaps you will get a poem.

Only for a few lines of poetry,
How long must I wait before this tree,
In front of the crumbling wall,
And the old man?
How long will I be bending on my knees?

Translated from the Bengali by Syed Najmuddin Hashim

THE POSTCARD

It has been a few weeks that
A dirt smudged postcard with bad handwriting
Sitting in his shirt pocket.
Wherever the young man goes
The postcard goes with him.
The incorrectly spelt and awfully worded letter falls asleep
Close to the young manís chest
With its smell of village flowers,
Creepers and mimosa shrubs
And the soft rippling sound of water
On the edge of the pond.
The postcard from his sister
perturbs him at times.
The unemployed youth
Is helpless to support the family
Without a patriarch.
He stays out of harmís way
and keeps a very little involvement.
None has ever seen him in any political meetings or processions.
He has rather been searching for a job relentlessly.
Hunger and deep sighs are his constant companions.
Yet, on a terrified noon,
His chest was pierced by a sudden bullet.
The youth did not even have a chance to comprehend
Where the bullet was from.
Was it the police or was it from a terrorist?
The youth did not know.
Only the postcard, he noticed, in his pocket
Soaked up with his own blood.

Translated from the Bengali by Zakeria Shirazi


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    Shabdaguchha, A Journal of Poetry, Published in New York, Edited by Hassanal Abdullah.