“… they shall inherit the earth.”
Across the street from the Pan Pacific
Hotel Sonargaon, named after an ancient
capital, now a pile of moldering bricks,
the site of a Mogul caravanserai
is the city's largest grocery market,
100% bio-degradable, though the smell
doesn't quite reach the crossroads
where we spend a sizeable fraction
of our days trying to ignore
beggars of all ages and juvenile hustlers,
pretending to watch
a stainless steel fountain
that looks like something
from a chemical works
and sprinkles water
only on national festivals,
as we wait for the traffic light
to turn green, and when it does,
for the traffic policeman's restraining arm
to come down as he toots his whistle
like a soccer referee signaling Goal!
The jouisance of getting through
is as good as an orgasm.
Past midnight – traffic cops all abed –
lights shine and change pointlessly.
Trucks laden with produce
to three times their capacity
grunt and grumble, turning gingerly
toward the market.
In those seconds
as the driver's eyes are seduced
by light caught in the fountain's
silently writhing steel pipes
street brats materialize
on a truck like a basketball
dunked by an invisible hand;
to raised waiting hands he passes
quickly dislodged cauliflowers, cabbages,
gourds, dried fish, bags of potatoes,
rice, lentils, sugar, salt,
and slithers down like a cat
to vanish with his friends
like exhaust from a beat-up old truck.
Kaiser Haq has received the Sherwin W. Howard poetrt award for 2017 from the journal ‘Weber- the Contemporary West” for the poems reprinted here. He is professor of English at the University of Dhaka.