Mask - Poem by Shamsur Rahman
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.
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.
[Translated and Edited by Kaiser Haq from 'Selected Poems' of Shamsur Rahman.]
Not: Banani - An affluent suburb of Dhaka. It has a well known cemetery.
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