From the Village of Tungipara

In the solitary exile of the grave,

those elderly men who cry

for mercy for your departed soul

those of our sisters

who have lovingly kept

your sacred name within their hearts

as if you were their father, brother or child

those brave men

who are working the oars for the exploited,

like all the fearless boatmen of the Bay of Bengal.

Oh, great architect of our liberation,

I swear, in the name of the almighty,

I swear, in the name of those elderly men,

I swear, in the name of those brothers, sisters, millions

I will take revenge with my blood and my sweat

for the most shocking, hateful murder

this world and its people have ever seen.

The worker who has just left behind

the breakneck fervor of the weaver’s shuttle,

His helpless sweat white against his dark skin,

I want to take off the weariness from his body.

I want to see tears of serenity in his eyes.

The one I saw screaming “I haven’t eaten in three days”

my prayer for that skeletal plowman

is for my rebellion to call him brother across lifetimes.

The path I have chosen has no gateways.

No flowers, no beds of roses, this path is stained with blood

smeared with death and temptation like the war of liberation.

You are our unyielding inspiration.

Overcoming all obstacles, I will guide your boat

to the desired shores.

A great man, you were—never a deity.

Those who deified you and sang your praises

Those who gave their lives, many times over,

in seminars and rallies. After your death,

none are with us now.

Like fickle mistresses, they now surround new masters.

Alas, such misdeeds only seem to suit Bengalis.

Those who were close to you, your killers—were they Bengali?

Or were they serving some conspiring nation? Those who have

sold themselves to imperialism, they are not our brothers—

forgetting the thousand tales of our heritage, national pride.

They have become servants of foreign nations!

I reserve all my hatred, spit and the fire in my heart for those spiteful killers calling themselves Bengalis.

I hurl terrible vengeance at those killers’ faces.

Look, the fire burns now in all Bengali hearts that are pure.

Now all that our homeland needs or wants

are a few stalwart roses as our soldiers.

Lie there, where you are sleeping,

great father of Bengalis,

give us your fragrance, just your beloved voice.

Strength and unlimited courage,

from Tungipara, the rest of our villages

will take strength,

take inspiration for another revolution.

Translated by QP Alam

January 10, 1972

Tribute to the homecoming of Bangladesh’s Father of the Nation

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

The day he came back, the country’s season

of cold wind and light turned.

The fallen leaves came to life as if in spring.

The branches were embroidered with leaves.

The sun rose among the cheers of millions.

Music was heard ending the silence.

The feared grey sky was filled with the chirping of the birds.

When he came back, the ground was still soaked in blood.

There were remorse and cries—signs of destruction, rampages and burns everywhere.

He came back, a krishnachura tree appeared in the ruins.

The shimul tree of patience was abloom.

Hope germinated from sorrows, blood pulsed with fine beats.

The tears of pain were wiped off

by the shrubs, dust and flag

as they burst into a laughter that said: ‘Joy Bangla, Joy Bangla.’

Our rivers became more than rivers—

they became fountains to dive within.

Our seas were no more silent, the waves were surged by waters.

Riding on whale-like waves came the bouquet of good wishes.

The forest was green again.

The white cloud walked down from the hill-top

and reached our fields of crops, our poor villages,

our grief-stricken houses.

A white cloud and doves of peace flew over

the lean muscles of the workers, the dry hands of the farmers,

the surprised eyes of a village bride

waiting with the child in her lap,

the sad lines on a mother’s face awaiting the return of her son,

the strange skulls of our kin scattered across this land.

The people of Bangla waiting anxiously

were touched by his thunderous voice.

Children waiting for their fathers

brothers waiting for their friends

followers waiting for their leader

a country for its father.

He came back—the country rose from ashes.

The guns of the freedom fighters showered bullets

to add to the joy.

The roads from the Airport to Race Course

were decked with flowers of love.

The air filled with cheers roaring ‘welcome.’

Festivity everywhere, joy everywhere,

freedom everywhere.

He came back—amid tears of joy of the countless

and declared:

“See, I am not dead.

Your love has brought me back alive.”

Translated by Shamsad Mortuza

In the Feelings of Millions

You have unfurled the sky of red Palash flowers

You have presented a flag of earth and green

You have given us an address, a victory-slogan at birth

Head held high, you are like a trumpet on eternity’s shore.

I see you in all the pages of our history

Standing tall in sun, rain, memory and ethos

On the monument of Mujib, in luminous light

The stars have arrived to tell your tales.

There in the memories of my adolescence

A thousand years arrive walking on feet

The soil below turns crimson with blood

A dream of erect heads after so many deaths.

People are coming, the processions follow

Humans are coming, at the clarion call of Mujib

Seeking freedom, building resistance atop unity

You are the awakening, the friend of a nation.

I have seen your humanity, the revolt, the bravery

You are the finger-raising glory of Bangla

The country became a mass of people at your call

The people woke up, joined the fight against darkness.

You are the torch-bearer of freedom from shackles

The sail of a future pulled by the wind of Bhatiali song

Floating from the Modhumoti to Padma’s water

You remain awake at the mother-river’s base.

I also dedicate my poem to you

We do not see your demise anywhere

Crossing the tears, grief, and flow of blood

You are still alive in the feelings of millions.

Translated by Helal Uddin Ahmed

Illustration : Najib Tareque

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