Jibanananda Das

(17 February 1899 – 22 October 1954 / Barisal / Bangladesh)

On City Sidewalks - Poem by Jibanananda Das

It is late — so very late at night.
From one Calcutta sidewalk to another, from sidewalk to sidewalk,
As I walk along, my life's blood feels the vapid, venomous touch
Of tram tracks stretched out beneath my feet like a pair of primordial
serpent sisters.
A soft rain is falling, the wind slightly chilling.
Of what far land of green grass, rivers, fireflies am I thinking?
Where are the stars?
Have those stars been lost?
Beneath my feet the slender tram track — above my head a mesh of tangled wires
Chastises me.
A soft rain falls, and the wind seems lightly chilling;

But you'll not see a single mallard's nest quiver in the face of this cold
Calcutta wind so very late at night.
No dove will come to tell you of its broken sleep's soft bluish flavor,
broken by olive leaves.
You'll not mistake a yellowed papaya leaf for an unexpected bird,
Nor will your eyes grow large with recognition as you comprehend creation as
thick fog.
Nor will an owl rub her gray wings on an amlaki branch here,
Nor from that limb will sapphire dewdrops fall,
Nor will her call bring forth here stars like subtle fireflies,
Nor make the nighttime even bluer.
You'll not see here green grass strewn with countless dead dewali bugs,
Nor will the world here seem to you a soft and green and gorgeous dead dewali bug,
Nor life itself a cold yet gorgeous, dead, green bug.
The owl's call will not here bring forth stars like subtle fireflies,
Nor will the call of dewdrops bring forth stars like subtle fireflies,
Nor will your eyes grow large with recognition as you comprehend creation as thick fog.

[Translated from 'Futpate' (Bengali) by Clinton B. Seely]

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, March 20, 2012

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