Bridge to Global Literature

Let’s all remember that more and more poetry gets lost without earnest attempts at translation.Read poetry here to get a glimpse of the rhythms and resonances of languages you don’t know.

In The Land Of The Giantess & Other Poems— Subrata Sarkar

Dec 21, 2022 | Poetry | 0 comments

Translated from the Bengali by Arnab Roy 


In The Land Of The Giantess

Blood oozes all night, sweet dreams of sucking bones
buzzes over our faces like flies,
What’s more nutritious than human flesh
in this universe? 

Tomorrow we start our day by sipping tea from human eyelids.
Now listen, the wrapper we have woven
with the black and terror-crumpled skin
of the infants, is unparalleled.

For embroidery, you may choose any long-haired girl.

Door mats can easily be prepared from the chest hair of young men.

Now pick, from the severed heads of various sizes. 

And just for the prick of your conscience,
which comes only for a few days every month,
we have arranged such protection
that you won’t be able to differentiate those days
from your other normal ones. 

In exchange for so many facilities
you only have to give up that enormous soul
you have inherited, which, neither you nor we
do know, whether it is light or wind, or nothing at all actually!

Whatever I Know Of You

Whatever I know of you, sand, O! the language Bengali
I feel sad.
In the water, I imagine, a dog barking, at the unformed rhyme
of that girl’s back, in her hair, begins the horizon.
The moon, like cows, comes treading, blowing dust,
here in the grass,
in the eggshells of the golden spiders,
teardrops evaporate slowly.
As if in this scribbling, somewhere
remained the stories of someone else’s life,
with black dots on the wings, just flying away—
Whatever is left, between the trees and the earth,
the sound of the mud-smeared tin, nothingness
is climbing up, heaving a sigh, taking a pause, then climbing again… 

Following the calls of the coucal, the fox has gone to the knee-deep water
and has dragged out the corpse of dead words to the land,
now the heart will explode with loud thuds.
It is thorns now. Blood comes out when the sharp edges of
the leaves of thought scratch on the face—
listen, a disheartened face will never resemble a flower. 

In the mist, two burning pieces of coal from the blazing pit,
are gazing and tearing and gobbling the flesh of the dead words,
nature, terrified, closes her eyes, the murky blood of existence,
with all its hairiness and stench, violence, with its sparkling teeth,
bites on the white page of the book.
The feeble legs of all the pains of the world were still trembling,
in the hoofs, in the clinging twigs and tendrils, life, fire,
trembling, ever again…

My Mother’s Name Is Swift-Tuttle

Near the grave of the dead star, the mother has arrived,
in the evening, her teardrops are the candle lights,
she is caressing the cemented memorial with utmost tenderness:
See, Bubun! I am here!

Perhaps, the silence of the burial ground and the chilling wind
have a connection with the afterlife, can a small petal of a flower
understand the indications from the boundless cosmos?
The boy-child has just awakened from his slumber now in the underground.
The immaculate smile of his toothless gum is so beautiful—
as the obstacle between them is gone now, they can see each other.
But, the distance between the dead son and the mother is now immense—
even imagination cannot reach there! 

The year is 2126. Lying underground, I used to read Tagore.
Poetry has taken amazing turns molded by the young poets,
and like a bright rainbow now, has vanished into serenity.
Even a corpse can tremble at pleasure,
If, only, the pleasure is real!

14th August is my death anniversary. It seems she will come here
with some flowers and candles in a small basket.
When she will walk among these silent epitaphs of this cemetery
every single grass will have a strange feeling,
passing through an inexplicable pleasure, they will be able to see
the thin line between life and death. 

Scientists have said that Swift-Tuttle is a comet,
that will crash on earth on that day.
Even if that does not happen, human history has never experienced
the scene that will be unfolded that day,
when it will sweep its tail on the face of the earth—
that blazing incarnation of sunlight
would make everyone speechless.

But I say: Actually, she will dust off this tomb with her Anchal.
And, like the minute changes in a mother
visiting the grave of her dead son
after a long time, become visible to the bare eyes,
you will also witness how that pain and delight are expressed in life.

What is there in Roger Penrose’s C.Q.G. Theory 

Even a broken statue
can sustain some particles of life,
if you summon, he may reply,
in his half-shut eyes, some difficult questions
about this world persist:
That is why it stands alone amidst this materialist
universe with all its unfulfilled dreams and numbness,
because even if you wish,
there is no way to be lost anywhere,
even the structure of the very delicate human thoughts
is built with cosmic particles,
where would you vanish then?

Twelve hundred years ago, I was Kanakverma,
right hand of emperor Pulakeshi the Second.
After the war of Kalinga, sculptor Hemanta Mishra
has built this statue of mine,
then who am I, really? Hemanta or Kanak?
Every question cannot have answer,
only when sunlight comes through the windows
of these ruins of Chandraketugarh,
sudden excitement runs through the body of stone,
most of the time, there is nothing, but
if you look minutely:
the gradually approaching moss
on the sword made of stone
becomes deeper green.
What might be the explanation of all these?

Every piece of writing,
with its multitude of possibilities
enters and exits the unconscious region of our mind.
It is impossible to determine how many incarnations
they have in this realm of uncertainty.
Just, among the multitudes of alternatives
the shape of the very thought that reaches
the mass of one graviton only gets expressed,
that is, reality is that figment of imagination—
which is only rewritten under certain conditions.
Again, sometimes reality is also seen to be
returning to the world of imagination. 

For example: when I found a letter from the late poet Alakesh Bhattacharya
a few days ago, I wondered, is he actually a collective imagination of us all?
Yet, upon this short note written from a certain boarding house
of Kali Temple Road, a darkling crow is cawing.
It is noon, and from the musty wall, electric light
is dripping with a scratchy sound.
Under that bulb, a tall fair young man
is reading a poetry-magazine just published by his friends.
His mesmerizing eyes, like a couple of bullock carts,
passing the corn and millet fields,
have now taken the journey toward infinity. 

Also, read a Bengali story by Shyamal Gangopadhyay , translated into English by Chaiti Mitra, and published in The Antonym

The Fairy— Shyamal Gangopadhyay

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Subrata Sarkar (b.1956) is one of the most striking and important poets of our era. From his very first collection of Bengali poems Dabdaru Colony (1979) (The Pine Colony) he has been strikingly different from the clamors of his time. Since then to the latest collection of Bengali poems Sangeet Kanika Matro (2019) (Just a Molecule of Music), Sarkar has curved his own prominent niche in the canon of contemporary Bengali poetry. He has been awarded Shakti Chattopadhyay Puraskar (Shakti Chattopadhyay Award) in 1996, Birendranath Chattopadhyay Puraskar (Birendranath Chattopadhyay Award) in 1998, and Epar Opar Puraskar (Epar Opar Award) in 2021. He has authored two collections of prose, Poricchonnota O Bishader Debi (The Goddess of Cleanliness and Sadness) (2008) and Rokromangser Pandulipi O Shokuner Danar Kolom (The Manuscript of Flesh and Blood, the Quill of the Wings of Vulture) (2018). He loves to watch the rain and loves travel. 

Arnab Roy (b. 1982) is a poet, short story writer, novelist, and translator. He is a teacher by profession. He has three collections of Bengali poems and two collections of Bengali short stories to his credit. His latest publication is his third collection of Bengali poems, Ek Purnabayabab Mithye ( A Life-size Lie) came out in 2021. He was awarded Subir Mondal Smriti Puraskar (Subir Mondal Memorial Award) in 2018 for his collection of poems, Karunasamagra (2018) ( The Pity Omnibus) and Santosh Das Smriti Golpodesh Takshasheela Puraskar (Santosh Das Memorial Takshashila Award) in 2021 for his collection of short stories Aat Inchi Pa (2020), (The Eight Inch Long Leg). He has done his Ph.D. on the novels of Amit Chaudhuri in 2020. 


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