Mohammad Rafiq

(1943 / Baitpur, Bagerhat / Bangladesh)

Of Generations Gone - Poem by Mohammad Rafiq

Just inside the courtyard, on the left an ancient guava tree,
planted by father’s father-in-law; on the north side the kitchen,
after four monsoons slanted completely eastward;
the white faces of three widows, an oil-lamp burning in the dark;

On that night the call of high tide in the Arial Khan’s waters,
on the bamboo fence two spears, a hatchet, a cleaver,
sparkling, sleepless; in waiting the night lengthens;
with its drenched enraged breath, like a lifting rib a sandbar rises

the tug of primal mystery, of the current’s black muscle;
tell me you won’t go when the headman calls next,
swear it; why risk your lives;
tearing at the dark, the white teeth of strange laughter,

clutching their wives chest to chest; the sun’s red spurting
from the spear’s wound, that flaming pain you won’t understand, dear;
from their land the three men leap and bound away,
in the same way father went, grandfather went, of generations gone

in the blood-clotted darkness the lamp flickers,
on the bamboo fence hang the rusted spears, the cleaver;
three widows’ faces with their ebbtide gaze, listening to
the Arial Khan in the dark, sand-rib rising with its breath.

[Translated from Bengali by Prasenjit Gupta]

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Poem Edited: Tuesday, June 5, 2012

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