A poem about my own poetry

 

Rumourmongers spread many tales about my poetry

all around. Some say that there are ugly

birthmarks on my private parts, some others claim

that my wisdom tooth has not come out till now.

 

My poetry is said to be too much like a tramp,

roams about alone on footpaths or sits on a park-bench,

indulges in sexual pleasures in closed rooms, whistles

off and on; my poetry is shamelessly urban.

 

My poetry does not have an ounce of common sense, wears

a strange jacket against everybody’s advice, bravo,

travels with a dark blue lantern in broad daylight

and out of habit enters crowded taverns in the evening.

 

Pressing the wine bottle to unshaven cheeks or kissing

the stringed instrument my poetry sings songs about non-existence,

and a string of forbidden words fly around his brains

like buzzing bees in the morning or at the stroke of midnight.

 

All of a sudden my poetry lights up a thousand torches

and burns down his own house to celebrate a festival of fire;

pigeons are grief-stricken; the household god, rendered homeless

in a moment, has to travel to some other place yet again.

 

Prodigies of learning spread rumors all around: ‘His poems are

no special ikebana, they are petty toys of self-deception,—

they won’t last, in the end they shall

be hacked to pieces by the axe of time.’

 

When a fierce fire breaks out in the area,

my poetry, they say, sleeps soundly, insensible as

a tree-trunk. And even when he wakes up, he becomes

fully absorbed in drawing a bow across his violin.

 

My poetry lives in slums and at the crematorium,

with a corpse-bearer he shares his meals tinged with the hue

of the setting sun, sometimes he carries a wicked, dying man

a long way on his shoulders to a distant hospital.

 

My poetry is like the eye of a miserable man on the roadside,

stretching across to gaze at someone’s footprints,

bathing in stream-water, he dreams of the forest goddess pressing

her lips on his mouth, consumed by an intense lust for copulation.

 

Shamsur Rahman
tr. from the Bengali by Shankar Sen