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Issue 43/44 : January - June, 2009 : Volume 11 No 3/4

Khondakar Ashraf Hossain

The Stranger

A stranger is waiting at the door.
I haven’t allowed him in. I said,
“Stand there, wait just a while;
I am not ready now; I can’t open
The door for someone so early; let me
Fix the bed, straighten the sky on the windows;
Spread last night’s clothes on the hangers;
Let me change the oil-smeared pillow-covers
And put on the ones with the floral design—

Also, I’d like to rinse my body
And hang the heart on the line to dry.
Then you can come, you and your dog
Against the bolster pillows, or, if you prefer,
Sit on the lone chair, dangling your feet.

It can happen on the pink mattress on the floor—
Or on the wide veranda, near the kitchen sink.
You might go at it straight without foreplay.
After all, rape and death, if they can’t be helped,
Should be enjoyed, philosophers say.


We have given thee this earth as bribe, God said in mirth.
We have created thee out of dust, and at death
Thou must return there, as a snake returneth,
  after some frolic, to the same hole in earth.
We’ve given you that sky, rent-free—men replied.
That blue sky arranged in fold after fold,
The sun, the moon and the planets of gold,
And angels, those sentinels of limitless powers—

We salute you, babu, but this humble earth is ours.


Translated from the Bengali by the poet

Hassanal Abdullah

Swatantra Sonnet 21

Come in with your bare chest. Dear lady, the complex
Cage of dress does not give me the deepest pleasure.
I want the naked beauty, as the snakes and the trees.
The blooming youth of twenty-eight looks for wild taste
Of a purple butterfly. The thorny obstacles of having lustful sex
Quickly departed and vanished from our side. The ardent desire
Sets its calm, sweet, lovely and musical wings unbelievably free.

Not so intricate, but I know it’s tough to find
That hidden nymph—the face, the breasts, and the unseen
Babbles of the sea. In a dense forest, the shy, white,
And the blooming body—untouched and fearful. Even haste
To be nauseous—unapproachable. In the depth of her mind
May even lie ignorance, ironic insomnia. The field’s never been
So fertile—as it’s now—equally dense and awfully bright.

Swatantra Sonnet 130

In a chilly, wet and sunless February, you cut
me off and wanted to leave. The cloud seemed to reel
over the New York sky. The white brand
of snow piled up in the streets and people wanted to go
home at once. But you killed two birds in a shot—
poetry and love. I could not say, “Come back, wheel,”
as firm as a poet from the neighboring land.

You wanted more cold. You needed it as you told
me. You mentioned, “I will fly to Alaska or Cyprus,
And live calmly in an icy house for a while.” That horn
of rise and fall, words I’ve never heard, sounded though,
coming from the Vimbishar, where, once, I had to hold
my breath and gently let the twelve-whole-month pass—
Your words banged on my door as the silent mourn.

New York

Translated from the Bengali by the poet

      Please read more poems in translation in the hardcopy...

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