A Dead Tongue | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 04, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 04, 2018


A Dead Tongue

My tongue is standing by the road

Under a sign that proffers speed limit

Two buses are coming down, racing

Over a line that runs parallel 

The driver, is he my age

I wonder

The other, surely he is too

They are coming 

Like stuntmen 

In action movies 

Wood against wood

Sparks of fire

Is there steel too 

Ah civilization 

Ah development

You see the disparity 

One man riding a car with a cat in his bonnet

Hundreds huddle like a kitty in a bag with no bonnet

My father runs one of these machines

How does he do that

How can you risk your life

And put behind a wheel like that

It's as mad as Wright brothers

Getting on a bicycle with wings

Is the bus flying

Is it my father behind the wheels

I will tell him not to ride those things

Things that kill

Who is the thing behind these things

The thing that feels nothing

Yet inflict pain and suffering 

Does the bus run on testosterone 

Does the bus run on adrenaline 

Does the bus run on greed

Does the bus run on need

Why is this bus coming so fast

Is my father in it

Is he coming to get me 

In a flash I see my world

That I have lived

My mother promised 

She'd cook khichuri

With aubergine 

I can smell her sweat

The love and the turmeric

Is there a hint of butter

The fuming khichuri

I didn't have my tiffin today

Had to copy class notes

From a friend 

The teacher is so boring

I didn't hear a thing

Tomorrow I will sit in the front row

My dad said if I study hard

And get the results I deserve

He'd put an ad in newspaper 

The first in family to go to uni

Why are the buses not slowing down

Can't they see it is the stop 


My tongue died yesterday! 

And the thing lived on!

Shamsad Mortuza is Professor of English (on leave), University of Dhaka. Currently he is the Head of the Department of English and Humanities at ULAB

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