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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.

The Phantom & Other Poems— Sudip Bose

Jan 11, 2023 | Poetry | 0 comments

Translated from the Bengali by Aritra Chatterjee 


Raj Kumar Singh 

And sometimes the girls do slip and become lonely. On such solitary nights, they rehearse their steps behind the doors. Down the stairs, in the passageway grabbing the arms of those they meet, they ask—”Darling, am I fair or tanned? What am I suffering from?” Like a stubborn yellow light, they silently loiter around the house. Rear a weasel. Offering one arm towards the ogre, they go down for serials with the other. At night, make the bed for their Prince Charming. Raj Kumar Singh. And then rig up the curtains. Women’s curtains, you know, are hung up high on the walls of ruined fortresses. One must cross the river to reach there.  

Family Matters 

“Another burden on my back,” Dad used to say.

My little brother, born blind
Would stoop over the harmonium
all day long.

“Every day the blades blunt a little,” he would write
Ranga Pishi, who had run off with Anis.

Mom had a secret song,
Nishi Uncle lived there.

On moonlit nights, when the sky used to erupt
underneath the stairs, the sound of
strange wailings would rise in the air
further, down further on the harmonium
my little brother would stoop.

Mom would ask, “What are you searching, hon?”
“Darkness,” came the answer. 

The Phantom 

Mom was dying from breast cancer. She didn’t want those injections anymore.
Like a silly kid, a yellow light would linger all around our house—

Mom had a handbook of recipes. Every time, she cooked from that
The Phantom would be the first to taste it. For those ten minutes, the
jungle was someone else’s responsibility. Whatever Mom ate,
She offered the Phantom first. 

Dad had figured out that two doses of chemo
was worth a truckload of stone chips.

“All those pesterings, calling you out a dog—is the reason
I suffer now,” Mom was telling him. Dad kept silent. He just waved
his hands as if swearing never mattered—

On the day she finally died, she was given a bitter pill.
Mom wondered whether the Phantom would come to taste that.
Because all evening, there was the sound of drum rolls. We thought,
perhaps he has just started walking.

We delayed her funeral by eight hours.
Drim, drim, drim, drim, drim, drim—yet the drums kept beating all night long.

Madhabi and Darkness

Madhabi comes. The heavens pour down every time she does, but there’s never any lightning. Madhabi is blue all over her body. She sits in front. Says, “Give back my birthday.” Says, “See, I came solitary. These days I stay near Dhankal Road.” She Lies. Those three pet tigers who follow her everywhere, keep echoing “birthday, birthday.” Nowadays, I don’t bother about them anymore. Asking her to sit, I gesture towards the tigers, “Come back on Monday.” “They are all mine. I don’t know why you keep harassing me.” “Say something,” I ask. “What’s left to say? Isn’t it already over?”

You know, giving back birthdays to someone isn’t that big a deal! But I want Madhabi to stay, wait in front of me, wait in the dark for thousands of hours, without her tigers, without teeth and claws—

She stands up. Says, “See you on Monday then.” Seems to be in a hurry. There’s a bus at half past four. After that, loads of stuff to do. Piled up higher. Can’t catch a breath.

Madhabi arrives. Monday never does. 

Also, read a Tamil fiction, written by Ku. Azhagirisamy , translated into English by Dr. S. Vincent, and published in The Antonym:

Raja Has Come— Ku. Azhagirisamy

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Sudip Bose(1967) is a poet, fiction writer, novelist, translator, and avid reader of world literature. He has authored ten books of poems which include Anindita Busstop, Liril Sabaner Atma, Neel Goynar Moto Barhi, Madhabi O Andhokar, and Mrityu O Mayur. Fear and darkness haunt his poems, rendering them a completely different status against the trend of 90s Bengali poetry. In Sudip’s poems, there are shadows of random characters, half-known, unknown figures, seen as if in a dream. Most of the enigmatic poems he has written have freely deployed several tropes fit for fiction, but where he goes with them remains inexplicable. That is the beauty of these poems.    

Aritra Chatterjee (1994) currently works as a post-doctoral researcher at Purdue University, USA. Born on the outskirts of Kolkata, his ventures have kept him away from the city for nearly a decade now. Formally trained in mechanical engineering (and a bit of biology), he maintains a keen interest in fiction and poetry. Some of his works have so far been published in different magazines and resulted in a book (Sarkis Parjaniar Diary—a collection of poems, 2021). Outside work, he loves watching cinema, football, and petting stray cats.


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