THE STRAIGHT ROAD
If you want to fall in love with me, do.
I’ve put out my well-rounded hands, see.
If you want to hold them, do.
I’ve no time to stand on the road.
If I have to pull in my hands,
if we can’t agree,
get out of my way.
These days I have started standing out again
in the morning, after opening the door.
But not to dry my hair.
The peanut wallah goes this way
late in the afternoon,
and as for the chirping of one or two birds,
it had better be heard
from inside the house
The boris dry in the sun on the terrace.
To see young men with well-groomed hair –
I’m not that young any more.
To tell the truth, I’ve picked up a new bad habit,
The postman goes this way
in the morning;
if by chance he delivers a letter,
the kids of the house may unwittingly…. ……………..
make it into an airplane and play with it
It is this fear
That prompts me to come out.
Not that doesn’t cross my mind at all:
you’re quite busy living with your family
watering the woodrose plant
late in the afternoon,
going out for stroll in the evening
with your wife and kids –
Why should you write letters?
Do people write to anyone when you’re happy?
So many afternoons come
but nothing like those afternoons of joy
in New Delhi.
I long to go there again and see
if the rooms are still as they were,
if, when you stand in the lobby,
you can still touch the sky.
Does anybody, all on a sudden,
still burst into song in the afternoon
out of love, just like that?
I long to go again and see
if they are still as they were:
the India Gate in the evening,
the water and the grass, bhelpuri;
see if at the Old Fort,
on the footpath, at Palika Bazar –
anybody kisses somebody like that,
not giving a hoot about who’s watching.
I long to go out again,
Wearing long shorts and a sleeveless vest,
To enjoy the early evening breeze
and to see if the bathtub, the bed
and the pillows
are still in their places.
Afternoons still come.
But is there a single afternoon like those?
You smell of aftershave –
whether the smell is French or English
I cannot guess.
When I kiss you
I’ll put my lips on your aftershaved forehead, cheeks, throat;
the music of your aftershaved button being yanked
makes me wet with happiness, makes me wet;
the day I yank out your button
I feel good.
You use so much aftershave
that I feel drunk
when I put my face on your chest.
So much aftershave that like a creeper
I twist and turn and do something so crazy
that I don’t know how many times
you mentally tell me off – daredevil rogue.
Without aftershave you’re like a brick,
a log of wood or stone.
Then I don’t feel like touching you or anything.
I don’t feel up to a bath,
my body doesn’t play like a sitar
if your hair smells of hair
your arms of flesh and your fingers of bones alone,
I bring up blood.
Do I love your aftershaved smell
more than you? I wonder.
If another man comes after a bathe in a river of scent
why, I don’t even feel like touching him.
CALLING A YOUNG MAN WHO’S A HOME-BIRD
Just come out into the yard,
I’ll travel eleven thousand miles to meet you.
Just say my name once,
I’ll pick all the gentians from the hilltop
and give them to you.
Just utter my name once
and I’ll sprinkle on your body,
like the first rains of July,
all the colours of birch, maple and juniper trees.
Feel thirsty? Don’t worry –
I’ll give you alone
all the waters of the Danube, Seine, Tiber and Rhine.
Just come out into the yard,
I’ll cross the longest sea and touch you.
Just say once that you love me,
then see if I don’t snatch myself away
from this universe
and give myself to you.
CASTLES IN THE AIR
I wonder how you’d look lying down
how you’d look when you dreamed
when you woke from your dream
got up to go to the bathroom
had a glass of water from the jug –
I’ve never seen you in domestic life.
How would you look when you shaved,
when you had a bath,
and when you hummed a song?
(At bath, you generally prefer
to sing Tagore’s songs or film songs maybe!)
I wonder how you’d look without your shirt on;
if somebody undid her forest of hair
on your wide chest and caressed it a lot;
when you suddenly woke up at dead of night
and drowned yourself in the waves of a woman-river
in a fit of wild love-making.
I’m dying to see one day
how a woman’s body thrills
when your fingers touch it.
I want so much to be a woman once!
THE EXILE’S POEM
These days I often sit at the dining table
with fish and rice, take so much dal
that my wrist sinks into it, and mix;
my left hand swings from time to time
as if driving away flies.
In my airconditioned room in Scandinavia
there are absolutely no flies and bugs
and yet I fancy driving away something –
The sad piece of fish, vegetables, the bit of salt
near the edge of the plate,
the rice mixed with the thick gravy –
I don’t feel like taking my hand off the plate;
I feel like mixing rice like this the whole day
and eating it secretly.
I don’t know why I want the taste and smell of rice so much,
preferring it to the golden spoon.
Actually, when I touch rice,
my hand doesn’t bring up rice
but fistfuls of Bangladesh.
My country, how are you?
How are you, my country?
You, my country, how are you?
Are you keeping well, my country?
My heart yearns for you.
Don’t you yearn for me?
My life is running out thinking of you,
I die dreaming of you,
I hide my wounds in secret,
hold back in secret
my unruly hair
I am not well,
you keep well, my beloved country.
There are some
who never have a home,
Sure, there are –
a city full of people,
yet no one to love them.
Aren’t there some who grow old
looking at birds, sky,
sea and emptiness
all their lives?
And while growing old,
who, just before they die,
want some other life to live?
It isn’t as if it never happens.
THE MUSK OF PAIN
Some wounds need no balm,
staying up nights out of deep tenderness,
a change of air –
none of these:
they heal on their own.
Some pains burn you
All the time:
even the slight bodies of minor pains,
which the mouth can blow away –
carry the heat of fire.
These pains do not spear you
or make you go blind:
they only keep burning some things somewhere
and make them private embers.
Some pains dissolve in the air
before the night is out,
some pains set up home
in your heart
and, out of love, stay with you all your life.
Translated by Ashim Chowdhury