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Virtual Bangladesh : Poetry : Shamsur Rahman

Contents:

Obhishap Dicchi

[A poem]

Mask

Shower me with petals,
heap bouquets around me,
I won't complain. Unable to move,
I won't ask you to stop
nor, if butterflies or swarms of flies
settle on my nose, can I brush them away.

Indifferent to the scent of jasmine and benjamin,
to rose-water and loud lament,
I lie supine with sightless eyes
while the man who will wash me
scratches his ample behind.
The youthfulness of the lissome maiden,
her firm breasts untouched by grief,
no longer inspires me to chant
nonsense rhymes in praise of life.

You can cover me head to foot with flowers,
my finger won't rise in admonishment.
I will shortly board a truck
for a visit to Banani.[1]
A light breeze will touch my lifeless bones.

I am the broken nest of a weaver-bird,
dreamless and terribly lonely on the long verandah.
If you wish to deck me up like a bridegroom
go ahead, I won't say no
Do as you please, only don't
alter my face too much with collyrium
or any enbalming cosmetic. Just see that I am
just as I am; don't let another face
emerge through the lineaments of mine.
Look! The old mask
under whose pressure
I passed my whole life,
a wearisome handmaiden of anxiety,
has peeled off at last.
For God's sake don't
fix on me another oppressive mask.

[Banani - An affluent suburb of Dhaka. It has a well known cemetery.]

From: Selected Poems of Shamsur Rahman.
Translated and Edited by Kaiser Haq.

Roar, O Freedom

What shall I do with the spring
when I hear only the cuckoo moaning
and cannot see gorgeous flowers blossom?
What shall I do with the garden
Where no birds ever pays a visit?
Oh, how rough and stony is this earth!
Skeletons of trees stand, row after row,
like so many desolate ghosts.

What shall I do with the love
that places on my head a crown of thorns
and hands out to me the cup of hamlock?
What purpose the road serve
On which no one treads,
Where vendors of coloured ice-cream
Or waves of city-inundating processions
are never seen?

I had called you, dearest
When we started our journey
With our face turned to the rising sun.

When the back-pull of bourgeois charm
Kept from your ears the soaring sound
of the people singing.
You are still prisoner under the claws
of a fierce eagle.
you cannot yet walk on a road
with the rainbow coloured carpet spread on it.
Oh, how tough it is to keep going
without you by my side!

A horrid monster comes, casting dark shadows
all around;
in a moment he crushes under his heels
the foundation of new civilization,
he hangs the full moon on the scaffold,
declares unlawful the blossoming
of the lotus and the rose.
He bans my poems, stanza by stanza,
quietly, without any fanfare,
he bans your breath,
he bans the fragrance of your hair.

By the bent body of the young girl
sitting on the lonely porch of old age.
waiting for the dawn of happy days.
By the long days and nights of Nelson Mandella
spent behind the bars.

By the martyrdom of the heroic youth
Noor Hossain,
O Freedom, raise your head like Titan,
give a sky shattering shout,
tear off the chain around
your wrists.
Roar, Freedom, roar mightily!

Translation: Kabir Chowdhury

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