Poetry Was Like This

Poetry was the memory of adolescenceimages (2)

It was my mother’s sad face,

the yellow bird on a neem (margosa)tree,

my little brothers and sisters

sitting at night around a fire

of dry fallen leaves,

father’s home-coming,

the ringing of a bicycle bell—Rabeya, Rabeya

and the opening of the southern door

at the sound of my mother’s name.

Poetry was wading through a knee-deep river

across a fog-laden path,

the morning call for prayer, or the burning of paddy stalks

after the harvesting, the lovely dark dots of rye

on the plump crust of a homemade country cake,

the smell of fish, a fishing-net spread out

on the courtyard to dry,

and Grandpa’s grave under a cluster of bamboo leaves.

Poetry was an unhappy boy growing up in the forties,

a truant pupil’s furtive attendance at public meetings,

freedom, processions, banners, the piteous story

of a fierce communal riot told by my elder brother,

returning from the holocaust a pauper.

Poetry was a flock of birds on a char (sandy river beds)land,

carefully collected bird’s eggs,

fragrant grass, the runaway calf of a sad-looking

young farm wife,

neat letters on secret writing pads in blue envelopes.

Poetry was Ayesha Akhter of my village school

with her long loose flowing hair.

–Al Mahmud, Bangladesh

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