12:00 AM, March 24, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 24, 2018

MY USELESS WEAPON

A WAR POEM BY SHAHEED QUADERI

As Bird flocks take wing at the rattle of sten guns

The broken-winged poems crouching in my notebook

Bury their faces in a dark drawer

And lie like dead swans – or is it like

An ancient rusty good-for-nothing pistol

Without a bullet in its chamber? Still,

I can't get over my attachment. The day

Our neighbourhood, swept by searchlights,

Trembled at the drilled terror

Of barking voices and heavy alien boots,

This house too shook in fear

Though I hadn't any hidden weapons

To give me away. But I, nervous, cowardly

Though I am, boldly shielded you from shiny bayonets

And kept you safe from bonfires.

Just as a guerilla fighting for freedom

Straps a sten gun to his thigh

Or warily advances, grenade in hand,

I have evaded prying eyes to keep you concealed

As if you bore the promise of a deadly explosion.

One day, I remember, I dug a hole in the garden

And tenderly laid you down. But when 

The heavy boots of foreigners trod all over you

Heedlessly as they came to pound on the door

You didn't explode like a defensive mine.

O my serried words, if you still doze in silence

Like bedraggled crows on my notebook pages

Is it for nothing that I've put up with contumely

In my vaunted lifelong passion for you?

You are nothing but restless insomniac nights,

You've given me neither royal diadem nor commoner's covenant –

Why do I still abase myself at your feet?

Come, let us shake hands and part company,

Only let me plead one last time: 

If you can at least once roar like a field-gun.

Kaiser Haq is a poet, translator, essayist, critic and academic. Currently, he is the Dean of Arts & Humanities at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh.