Wind’s Foam

Nothing lasts, behold.
Behold how the leaves, the flowers, the old villagers,
the pose of rivers’ dancing, the brazen pitchers and
the fire of hookah
and the flock of grown up girls gradually diminish
like the monsoon of Hilsa fish !
The yellow leaves, sounding in the wind,
fall down on the droughty desolate land.
The foreign ducks too,
on whose bodies there are millions of bubbles, fly away
into the shallow blue cup of the sky.

Why doesn’t anything last long?
The corrugated iron sheet, the hay or the muddy walls
and the undecaying banyan tree of village
get uprooted by the terrible typhoon of Chittagong.
The plaster splits and in the long run the mosque of our village,
like our Faith, collapses down with a heavy crash.

The nests of sparrows, the love, the twigs and tendrils
and the covers of books fall off twisted.
By the water’s bite of the Meghna,
the crops’ green scream of the horizon starts trembling.
The houses float, float the pitchers and the cowsheds.
Like the affection of my elder sister, the old
embroidered pillow gets also sunk.
After the decay of dwelling-houses, nothing exists more.
Only the birds, fond of water, flying in the sky
wipe off the foam of wind from their beaks.

–Al Mahmud, Bangladesh

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