Poetry : Three poems of Kamal Chowdhury
Three poems of
From the plain you can see the horizon. The sky comes closer.
It seems the sky is a girl friend’s wrist watch whose seconds race past
Like a straight line towards the source of music. Every mathematical
Touches the loneliness and the stillness of the alphabet and scatters
itself all around.
Then you can stand on a dot and travel across a long desert land. In
the small hours
Of the morning, the desert looks like a cluster of Kash and the
cluster of Kash looks like
A crane’s white wings. All around moonbeams start flying — a
blinding emanation of light
From crystal stones.
Then the dot looks expanded; stillness becomes a wide inner river.
Then standing between loneliness and silence, the long wrist watch
of the horizon runs without an end towards the source of music
Then it dawns on me man is never alone.
I know you won’t bother to read, yet I have sent you this letter.
The baby who was heard crying during my birth,
The baby whose helpless, meaningless cry rent the earth,
I am that ﬁlming baby who has grown into a youth of twenty;
I shall write about parental debt in these stunted verses —
Laying bare a bit of angry birth-cry, of grief and a burnt-out poet’s
I live in this country, in this city soaked with blood,
I see thousands die here everyday,
Yet undaunted I am, a fair non-Aryan youth,
I shatter the hand-cuffs with ease,
The sky, nature and darkness know me,
But men with sight do not, for they haven’t seen
The prowess of my hands.
Putting words on words, I build miraculous rivers and palaces
And villages of green corn — all created by intense alacrity of a poet
Come to my palace— I know you wouldn’t come
Yet I will leave behind my golden invitation,
Countryside and cities, please remember my address.
Please believe me, don’t fail to repose faith in me
within me there lives a Lalon fakir,
I see myself everyday, yet do I know that ‘I’ in me?
I’m no believer in sweatless earthly love,
Society, family, war, UN and arsenal
All these fill my heart with intense hatred,
How can I stand marauding Pakistani forces?
American philanthropy! The racist Whites!
They all play with blood spilling it on the dust and soil,
Under my thatch-there is just Asad’s love,
Asad is my brother, eternal youth I too am Asad;
How can I believe that bullets too have love in their ﬁery entrails?
Thousands of termites have eaten up memory,
They have traded heritage for heaps of money
How many can remember Which country Manu Miah belonged to?
How many have shed genuine tears on a gloomy Ekushey morning?
Condolence meetings, seminars and remembering the martyrs are all
Where have they gone? Those who came back home with victorious
In which city do they live their desolate life leaning on a crutch?
Has anyone gone up to them With a bunch loving ﬂowers?
In this black bituminous city sham love keeps vigil,
Filling days and nights with the pangs of piteous births.
Look at the Shaheed Minars, gloomy and sullied,
Black crows crowd the condolence meetings,
I haven’t seen a single white bird in this youthful life of mine,
The city has no birds as their wings look for green refuge,
All birds have gone to the lonely woods,
All love is like a terriﬁed deer
Making itself a prey to a tiger-like lust,
Alone, love is on the run.
I have walked along a road alone on many a day,
Still today I walk alone, with no one in sight,
Love is the name of a way which is deserted,
Was there ever any man? In the soil yielding paddy and the green
I shall not part with even a tiny part of this shoal
My sweat has sown the seed of the next harvest,
Who’d dare say the power of sweat is useless,
I will set the pioneering example by cutting down a hill.
I have told you love does not abide in ornaments,
The smell of sweat is better than musky perfume
Why then is this pretension? Wipe off all the make-up
And call sweats the green love of the universe.
The blaring of siren wakes me up
The workers go to work in file with future dreams,
There is our love in the shuttles of the weavers,
Listen to that sound — therein lies our real love.
Hit hard the flint, come out of your sluggish female hair
Come let us dissolve this organization of nations,
Let us do away with mumbo-jumbo of class division,
And build a new world on a different pattern.
We will tug open the collaborator’s mask
Those who betrayed the protest march are
Now known and are still alive intruding in lovers’ den
Come, let us burn down their palaces and the fumes of
My ﬂames would bring them down on their knees.
Are you afraid? Does resistance seem insurmountable?
Hire courageous labour from my poems;
Man has conquered the moon, the Himalayas too stand beaten
Who are you afraid of P W/hat daunting time puts you off ?
Sing a song of Nazrul, Keep on singing;
Come let us bring down this desolate ruins,
This house of cards and this pretentious love let us send into exile
I know you would not read it, yet I have sent this letter.
If a boundary’s what makes a state, the poet travels farther;
Green suffers no distinction, there’s no impiety in blood
There are rivers on maps, in the turbid ebb and ﬂow
Fossils, pebbles, aquatic life-forms along with gravel
All ﬂoat on the Padma, the Ganges and the Euphrates
In their eternal search for the sea — the watery expanse is humanist.
Why then does he give me different lessons in anthropology?
Why distort history in the language of the hired hack?
Ayodya, Babarnama — murderers, rioters all the way.
Even the poet is not free from carved out boundaries and theory of
Bloodshed, conﬂict — the world is divided into bits and pieces,
The poet is no party to this — he is an eternally free bird
Maybe, he is born in Churulia, but sleeps peacefully in his narrow cell
There is no barbed Wire that can debar the poet from his travels.
Translated by M Harunur Rashid
Professor of Dhaka & Cambridge University