Poetry, my useless weapon
(Translated by Kaiser Haq)
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 neighborhood, 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 guerrilla 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 Bangladeshi poet, translator, essayist, critic, and academic. He is a professor at the Department of English & Humanities, and Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, ULAB.
This translation was first published in Selected Poems – Shaheed Quaderi, Library of Bangladesh Series (Bengal Lights Books/ ULAB Press, 2018).