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Sukumar Ray

(30 October 1887 - 10 September 1923 / Calcutta / India)

Woodly Old Man


The old man sits at his boiling pot,
Eating boiled wood--even scalding hot.
He nods his head and hums a song
With his sage’s air, he could do no wrong.

He mutters words that no one’s understood:
“The sky dangles cobwebs, hence holes in wood.”
His pate turns hot, his sweat falls and splatters;
He yells in rage, “Who can plumb such matters?

Those blasted donkeys, completely blind,
Know nothing at all, keep changing their minds.
They don't know the basics: which wood has the best juice,
And why, on the moon's eleventh night, wood holes grow loose.'

He scribbles his calculations on the ground:
Cracked wood, hollow wood--he writes numbers all around--
Which holes are tasty and which unwell,
What sort of fissure has what kind of smell.

One log against the other he’ll hit
And say, “Every kind of wood I can outwit!
I’ve handled wood and lumber and tree,
I know how to deal with their depravity.

Which wood turns tame, which wood has whims,
Which wood is wistful, and which full of vim.
Which wood can’t tell what’s good and what’s best--
And I know why some wood has more holes than the rest.”


[Original: 'Kath Buro' (Bengali), Translation by: Prasenjit Gupta ]

Submitted: Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Edited: Wednesday, March 14, 2012

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