Silvery bath

 

A solitary meal with just two pieces of dry bread,

or finding a handful of water in acute burning thirst is not what I wanted

as each day I approached the serene, golden afternoon, so perfectly hand-painted.

On my routine travels around this earth never did I

seek only the rancid taste of dry bread and water to quench my thirst. Even now

I lie

on the grass explored by a timid rabbit, I watch a squirrel in the evening

strewing shadows on its body, the boorish moon scrawls on the water of a meandering

river of dusk some far-reaching narrative, feasting my eyes to heart’s content, I

am silenced by the chorus of crickets, remembering the night gone by,

with my teeth I tear the grass with a deer’s

recklessness, the sky, a cascade of stars for a million years—

I beckon it close to my heart, my mind is lit

by the humming wings of lazy golden bees, as I sit

with my back to the sunlight of romantic lyres, older than many thousand years and more.

The danseuse, restless with the arrogance of potent wine, dripping galore

with passion, the bells on her anklets jingling

infatuating tunes in the heart, the idle afternoon tingling

with melody, even now in this kingdom of mine, this alone is my fervent prayer:

Dear God, if the pack of wolves gather around the door,—

this alone shall be my fervent prayer,—I shall forget even then, never, ever.

 

Never had I thought that by drawing lines on the abundant waters which around this earth lie,

smearing light and shade in the glow of the bottomless lake of the naked eye,

I’ll have to find a bed of grass in the end some day in twilight’s resplendence,

by juggling words with prosody and unison, strained by acute crimson diffidence

filling my vision, as I trudge amidst the ashen human gathering!

Some wink, moving away, some say with practiced ease, dithering,

‘Oh, ho’, as they raise their happy faces, which glisten like wax in the light,

‘Rubbish! Disguised as a honey-sucker, he composes poems day and night!’

Noisily grazing their fingers to the sky, they concoct stories of their imaginary familiarity with

celebrities every day

with consummate ease. And yet consolation: the sky sends down heavenly dew all the way,

bells on their feet, glowworm damsels fill the land with light dots, a doleful tenor

echoing in the dark night: I walk alone in your kingdom, I am the emperor!

 

Bathed in dew, dear mind, did you ever guess

that you would depart to some silvery corner of this earth

wiping off memories of many dull afternoons, vapid and listless?

At the sight of ghostly shadows on salty, wan and lifeless walls,

I become pale even in deep slumber in a cold wintry night,

driven by the fear of having nothing at the crack of dawn.

Perhaps the murderous pack of wolves shall one day

tear my throat in frenzied exaltation.

And yet I bolt the door and draw up a procession of bright chatter

smearing the forgiveness of Jesus all over my exalted matter.

 

My cold corpse shall perhaps be found in a city gutter by somebody one day

after countless waves of slimy water had gone down my throat all the way.

At my door, licking their lips eagerly at dusk, appear quite a few

nameless spirits, yet I bathe in the serene, silvery stream of heavenly dew.

 

Shamsur Rahman
tr. from the Bengali by Shankar Sen