Poetry

Three Poems of

Abdul Gani Hajari

Translated by Mohammad Shafiqul Islam

Dialogues with Gabriel in the Shrine

Along with them I walked on

averting retailers of incense staring at us

and professional depression

of the beggars.

In the narrow field

untying shoelaces carefully

covering the head with a handkerchief

with paternal devotion, almost forgotten, in the mind

we enter the shrine in a solitary dawn

amidst the olden obscurity.

At half-light around the shrine

the devotees are reciting orisons

swaying like the madrasa students…

Just this moment, O Gabriel, I see you

leaning against a grave pillar

just like an indolent servant.

Suddenly it comes into mind:

Oh, the messenger of our failures

you’ve forgotten our ways.

We couldn’t provide

                the solitude of Hira

desert’s devotion to God

the silent longing of date leaves

and the deep absorption of solitary oases.

Amidst mass upsurge and chaos

we’re exhausted.

We couldn’t offer you

a bit of silence

divine atmosphere

the curious simplicity of an innocent heart –

oh, our ancient shame is smudged.

Yet if you could come

traversing filth of Nayabazar one-way

crossing the disappointment of

Islampur’s wholesale customers

circumventing dead bodies of

middle-class people in the Jinnah Avenue,

our world would benefit.

Still if you can, then come

with the latest good news of your heaven.

O Gabriel, now where can we find the faithful?

Now human beings pray

but only for themselves.

In the furnace of followers’ faith

ashes of ancient fire carry the day –

only bodies without souls.

The Aricha Ghat

The decrepit abode is at risk of everyday erosion. A few shopkeepers

are sitting despondent at noon. Like three-headed old people

the dry branches of ancient banyan trees sway in indifferent breeze

and face the cruelties of the Jamuna, struggling to mend roadsides.

Coming from different cities, the sahibs wearing English dresses

get down from expensive cars, wipe dust; averting green coconuts,

noticing glittery skin in the shop of open sweetmeats, keeping

‘Bhagyalakshmi Hindu Hotel’ on the right, putting up a leg on the

dusty chair in a small tea stall, they ask curiously: ‘Is good tea

available around?’ The question appears incongruous to the shopkeeper

who feels embarrassed too; a few flies sitting on the cold strainer on the

dilapidated table covered with GI sheet get stunned. The hairless

filthy dog opens its sleeping eyes once, and yawning, lies down again.

Flabbergasting everyone, a piercing whistle of the IW Meghna, a new

trend in the wide river turns the old Aricha Ghat into a commercial zone:

cheap luchi and sweetmeat, tasty coconut juice on a widow’s shoulder.

The lazy filthy dog stands up, lurching its body, and the flies

spread their wings, dance and sing. The Meghna slowly arrives in the ghat.

On the first floor the folk song in the transistor brings life to

the helpless ghat, and the single cup is astounded by the foreigner’s last sip.

Wives of Bureaucrats

We’re wives of bureaucrats

seeking your favour –

O God, deliver us.

We’re weary of luxury

                we’re wives of bureaucrats.

O God, our husbands

                are absorbed in countless files.

(Only they know what they pluck)

We’re helpless in family-planning –

time crushes us.

We’re wives of bureaucrats –

                morning to evening

                we keep glued to the edge of a noble thought

                and the pale page of a fashion mag

the manifesto of cinema in the newspapers

naked pics of health and beauty

and a thrill of almost attained greatness.

Fat has amassed in the valleys of waists

                bellies have flattened

                cheeks have folded.

                We’re anxious about breasts.

O God, because of fat’s mausoleum

we gasp for breath –

we’re wives of bureaucrats.

The coffer is our fortune

extra money under pillows

Helene Curtis in the mirror desk

Anne French Milk

                Astringent

                Deodorant

                Hand Lotion

                Revlon

                Christian Dior

                and Rubinstein

These are, however, compensations

our husbands pay

for warm love in the middle age.

Proud of orderlies

greeting them now and then

the husbands prevent others’ promotion

call off officials’ applications

and sign documents in the office.

Getting back home

they burn with the fire of jealousy

for friends’ promotion,

count loss and gain

and then talk over telephone

then telephone

and then again telephone.

Revlon in our lips

foundation on the faces

tinsels carefully worn on the foreheads

slowly dry up –

whereas evening desires get stale.

O God

the thought of a second man

                makes us indifferent

Old lovers are married

aunts of the young

mothers of the subordinates

then grandmothers in the family

and the evening desires are stale.

London papers cover

Maggie’s love affairs

hymns of Jacklin

Liz Taylor’s coquetry

B-B’s measurements

Lola’s lustiness

and Marilyn’s suicide

and suicide

and again suicide –

O the evening desires!

So our bodies at night

are insipid, O God.

The moonlight in the window is cold

the bodies worn out

the snoring husbands

sleepless nights

and tranquillizers

O God, helpless

we seek your blessings –

give us some work.

In the vanity bag, mirrors

foundation and Gala’s colours

and social service

obsequies at kindergartens

front seats in the ladies’ club

for the husband’s position

inaugurating kids’ school –

we’re wives of bureaucrats.

O God

give us any work

so we get immersed in

it deeply.

Abdul Gani Hajari : Poet & Journalist

Mohammad Shafiqul Islam : poet, translator and academic, teaches English as Associate Professor in the Department of English at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Sylhet 3114, Bangladesh

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