Death will sprout out from the womb
I’m getting lost like a madman
Observe my perseverance
Behind this journey is the month of March
The rocks explain relationships
Logic is a crowd of clouds
Some think it’s in fashion and point at it with their index fingers
Your model is right in front of me
In front of you are the many pores of my skin
The clothes of innocence scrape off
In travel, all that remains in the sidewalk
Can be called writing
I have come to the mountain in winter
And resolved the warning of an easy riddle
I see the bloom of pomegranate-cloud
Arrogance of language, its tested wings
On every hair-pin turn
Query’s irregular arm
falls from the edge
I have turned down harmony. Into some mountain fog, life’s pedestal has been lost. I’ve arranged novice drivers for those who love mountains. And debris of cars in every ridge below. Rhododendrons have shed all blossoms. Seeing myself always outside me, I’ve carved horrible veins of speech all over my body. They may run after you
Translated by Souradeep Roy and the poet
Animikh Patra is essentially a poet and a prose writer. He was born in 1983 in West Bengal, India. He earned his Master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Kolkata. He presently works in a Govt. institution as a language teacher. He is the author of four books of poetry – Sandehoprosuto Kabitaguchchho (2017), Patanmoner Kursi (2016), Kono Ekta Naam (2013), Jatadur Boidho Boli (2009). He is co-editor of the bilingual literary website duniyaadaari.com.
A Series about the Past
Their bodies stretch, in my dream. The aggression of their presence, of
My ancestors, makes my memories dim
They would not call my name
But I feel the force of a stream, capable of drowning a ship
The bleak light of my loneliness sways, they become the wind
We stayed in the thick grey fog, to kiss till dawn
Until you left for the grocery shopping.
We imagined eternity, as much as we could. And then
We forged the silence and aloofness as timely as the sunset.
An unsuitable kiss fell down our cheeks near that rusty tube well.
You have the wooden tea table now, near your landlord’s winter garden.
The table that makes you awkward and defenseless against the pull of gravity.
She is there like a timid bee. She walks towards you after her puja and chores,
A pinch of prasad or mouth freshener in her hand,
and a faint shape of a kiss in her mind
The leaves lean on each other like fatigued soldiers in a song.
My big old heart knows, without you, the monsoon is naked and ugly.
Like blood, running through a deep cut, almost mute and in style.
The gentle murmur of the water reminds me of a tired musician.
It reminds me of a broken jug of hooch lying like a big mouthed bowl,
on a wet slippery kitchen floor.
Imaginations are made of longing; I was only eager.
A distant aunt of my mother, whom we never met, died on
A night like this. A night unfolding like a lotus flower in moonlight.
The smell of her departure kept my mom up all night. She cried.
And cursed the monsoon sky. It was a long time ago.
I feel the wound now, exposed in odorless and mute breeze.
My heart burns, my tongue stings. I cry because a woman died a long time ago,
a woman who was my mother’s aunt. Imaginations are made of motherly faces,
I am only starting to get friendly.
I am, this pettiness, in the land of imageries, a tiny glitch.
I am, this failing body, a body covered in earthly mucus.
Anuradha Biswas was born in Kolkata in 1986. She writes in Bengali and hopes to learn Cantonese one day. She has published two collection of poetry in Bengali, Pata Jhorar Gotibeg [Velocity of Falling Leaves] in 2010 and Pushpobitarito Kono Gondher Moto [Like a Smell Deviated] in 2016.
In the Valley of Broken Words
The only task left for the living is to bury the dead,
to seek with hands stretched out
The boy, one side of his face crushed,
dragged his body up to the waist
into your dream the other day.
The rest of his body
is still being lapped up by the dark waters of the Jhelum.
The brittle moon, the crushed and broken moon.
The only task left for the living is to remember
the sound of earth on earth.
Earth on earth.
Open the window onto winter:
a gnarled, black tree
amid the whirl of snowflakes.
The children have left their play.
They’ll come back grown-up men,
from across the border
of dawn and twilight,
and, in a huddle,
go to sleep beneath the ground.
Above it, little heaps of stones
which their tiny little hands
once gathered up.
Open the window onto that winter.
The gnarled black tree amid the whirl of snowflakes.
The grass with their doleful fingers
are undoing an acquiescing brain,
prying open the rusted lid
of the skull.
Inside, there’s sunlight:
black and viscous,
a few drops of dew
caught in a cobweb.
The hands of the gravedigger
busy, breaking up silence,
in the graveyard of a white sheet of paper.
Skin: a shroud that stretches up to the horizon.
At the slightest scratch
it will burst out into graves,
row upon row,
on the far side of the grazing fields,
in the schoolyard adjacent to sleep,
at the crossroads, on the threshold.
The reflection of a dragonfly on thick, grimy water.
The dead, with their bloody and broken fingernails,
Seek the living, the sleeping look for the last of the awake.
They wash away the blood from the streets: a hell rises up
in the splendour of steel
the shadow of a gravestone grows into evening
in the valley of broken words
across which I creep run barefoot and drag my body along
as my clothes muscles bones and tendons all crumble into
an enormous pit of honey
lying in wait
The seller of attar comes back from the end of a poem.
Memory comes back
to the fragments of body
held within quotation marks.
Water comes back to its senses
in a flash of sunlight.
Past the broken-down sentence
at the edge of endurance,
winding up the way of uncertain fingers,
down the stanzas overgrown with moss,
the seller of attar comes back
to Lal Chawk, one never-ending afternoon,
where the last dreams of the living
drips through the shrubs of darkness
to gather in little vials of attar.
Himalaya Jana was born in West Bengal in 1982. His poetry collections are: Vooter Sahor Theke [From the City of Ghosts] (2010), Vule Jayoar Aage [Before Forgetting] (2014), Harano Jontura[Lost Animals] (2018).
ANINDITA GUPTA ROY
LIGHT. It does not make a sound, but comes and goes all the same. It might in its touch reduce you to mere shadow, in a moment. The last two seconds before you forget the tidbits transcending your own mortal length. Now, being aware of your own mirror image you compose songs. Stumbling on a straight line you soon learn the how to return. And I will tell you the story of that waiting on another day to which no path can take you ever. Only the fingers measure the ups and downs of the heatwave. The diver is gasping for oxygen in the depth of the eyes. I keep treading down the moist, windy and silent memory lane to bring back the long forgotten step by step!
THE SPACE BETWEEN
From one December to another, walking keeps the actor away from the action. Equation of words, changing its significance, grows obscure. The space left out turns into a galaxy.
So tiny it is now, you can even keep it in your shirt-pocket
As if it is NOTHING.
And yet it wants to scribble, cuddling the pen all along, the background score of every possibility.
Promising a tight embrace the old town rejects her carelessly. Yet she is taking the lesson from the winter —-how to become expressionless!
Anindita Gupta Roy is an eminent poet, essayist, and translator. Her translations of Maya Angelou published from Bangladesh won her accolades and awards. He has authored nine books of poems. The latest one, Ababahikar Lekhaguli, came out in 2018.
The Tomb-keeper’s House
The spirits stir and shift beneath the ground, After dark, no mortals are allowed inside this complex. Only the tombs of kings and queens, and I, the keeper. The royals, you know, are never sober at the dead of the night. Then comes the clash of swords, a broken wine glass, and maybe an assassination or two You don’t feel it, do you? So nothing happens inside your head when you come home, not even a single cracking sound? Under how many feet did you then put all your wounds, and bury all your past, may I ask?
After the rains, an earthy smell fills the air. It’s probably the queens who died young, drying their long tresses. They are the daughters, daughters-in-law, mothers or grandmothers of each other. What they inherited from their foremothers are not crowns, but a lesson in family politics and a sharp hairpin each. Then, trying to weave their hair into plaits inside another plait, they discovered that there is no escape from the intricate cobweb. Be careful ma’am, those who come to this tomb complex like you, lose their ways, too.
No, it’s not solitude that I fear. Of course, in the first few days it felt like someone is moving restlessly under the gravestone, someone’s shadow figure is roaming in the orchard – I can see them, hear them, but can’t touch them ever. With time, I got used to their company. And now that you are standing before me, like somebody who can be both touched and felt, your breath is being condensed into a solid three-dimensional form, and I cannot make you blurred however hard I try: now it is you who I am afraid of, Sir.
I wanted to break free from all I had, and hence, this self-imposed exile. Here I don’t have a companion, no birth and no death, and not even epitaphs. The tombs are all unnamed, lying like small hillocks. Nobody cares to place wreaths on the graves. Only, the late April breeze scatters plum petals over them. Do they bear someone’s name, these distant flowers? Every morning I remove the withered flowers and unpenned words from the bed of the dead. The graves stare back like white pages, dumb and unploughed.
The emperors used to be buried with their queens, maids and concubines, and with jewelry and utensils. As I guard the place, I can feel that they are running a parallel household under the ground. Grains of rice are being boiled in a fourth- century bronze vessel, and the queen, standing beside her maid, is taking off her sad diadem. The smell of the food and the jingle of the ornaments try to lure me into domestic life again. I step back, and run. For, the tomb-keeper should never have a proper home.
Raka Dasgupta ( born in November, 1982 ) has authored five books of poetry in Bengali- Kagojfuler bon (2010), Alokkhir jhanpi (2012), Aporahno Downtown (2014), Genesis-er sat din (2015) and Dastana aar shiter golpo (2018); and a book of travel writings – Cherry-bosonto (2017). She received Krittibas Puraskar (2013), Bangla Akademi award (2016) and Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar (2016). By profession, she is a theoretical physicist and is engaged in both teaching and research.
Awake, Rai 1
I sit here defeated by civilization, its army
Arrayed in my head,
In this curfewed night full of yellow murderous footsteps .
These squalid fistfuls of discontent and melancholy
Where do I hide them? With whom?
Love and death are equally remote. To whom among these
Do I entrust my desires?
I want my wounds to breed more wounds –
I want to snatch the whip from your hand
And slash it upon my back myself,
At nights I lie awake in grips of terror –
For sleep bores me,
And I love being terrified.
The cackling pit of blood and flesh that I must crawl through,
This too has opened on my instigations.
Annihilating myself ,I want to behold
Those Jasmines in full bloom,
And the newly-built house standing nearby;
The free darkness above,
With all her Jewels twinkling .
For one glimpse of my entire life,
One glimpse that reveals the life entire.
(translated by Dyuti Mukherjee)
In good times we shall love
A hundred headlights glide through my sleep
Each on its own way, almost solitary
My frozen phosphorus eyes gather dark grains of sand
And take flight like a torn-out flag.
The Cypresses secretly scribble down in the dust
Names of stars long dead, gone for good like refugee birds
And I ask them to sleep tonight . To switch off the light before
I assure them, in good times we shall love.
That woman has a crack of noose around her neck.
The floors are red in the house where I stay.
A friend of mine wrote a story about blood.
Another friend catches the 5.30 bus every dawn.
They say many snakes crawl here at night.
Can I become your snakecharmer Faizal next month?
(translated by Suparna Mandal)
Ritam Sen is a contemporary Bengali poet and lyricist. He has three books of poems to his name and a number of popular Bengali songs, both film and non film. Currently he lives in Bolpur Santiniketan, pursues his research interest on the paintings of Rabindranath Tagore and teaches Comparative Literature in Visva-Bharati University there.
Dyuti Mukherjee and Suparna Mandal are translators whose works are not infrequent in contemporary translation scenario. Both have been featured by Centre for Translation in Indian Languages, Jadavpur University (CENTIL) in their international workshops and have translated publications for Oxford University Press among other noted publishing houses in the recent past.
My Auto-Rickshaw Rides
|I have long had an affair with the auto-rickshaw driver. Whenever I take a ride, I take the half seat on his right. When he drives over potholes, I try to keep his wicked elbow aptly under control. I keep giving him favours from one turning to the other. When suddenly a breakneck jolt comes — the ball finds the net right away. What more could you wish for! Meanwhile I, in my turn, have started to drizzle. Sensing the weather is bad, the destination arrives sooner than usual. I scramble down. The coins held in my right fist I press into his slightly unclean palm. When I sneak into my house, I find all the clouds, which had gathered, have poured water on my own little coast.
(Translated by Kabir Suman)
The Same River Today
By that same river am I with you today, where we drifted away together. Passing over so many births, we now have our nuptial room there. In each birth I have worn around my neck a garland of skulls of those men I had to satisfy to get you back. I have been wearing the marriage mark for so many epochs. My sap I saved up to pour on your bed only. Outcast mothers are blowing conch shells to celebrate our union. Can you hear dead married women’s exultation that comes drifting by from far away?
(Translated by Kabir Suman)
Swagata Dasgupta (born: 9th November, 1984) is a winner of Shakti Chattopadhyay Smarok Puroskar (2016) from Paschimbanga Bangla Academy and has five publications including Jeansparee (2007), Kukkuri O Tahar Premik (2009), Ode to My Mother’s Gigolo (2011), Bosonter Buro Haar (2015) and Apnar, Apnar (2016). She currently teaches Physics in the senior secondary level of a CBSE school and is a postgraduate from Rajabazar Science College in VLSI Design (M. Tech) and Electronic Science (M. Sc). [Address: BB-180, Sector I, Salt Lake City, Kolkata – 700064 M – 8017844742+
To get a bird’s eye view of the poetry produced in West Bengal by the generation born in the 1980’s see Aritra’s Sanyal essay in this issue https://www.thedreamingmachine.com/zero-circle-without-a-centre-the-generation-of-poets-writing-in-bengali-after-2000-by-aritra-sanyal/
Featured images: Photo by Aritra Sanyal.