SA (January19,1981 / Bangladesh)

Discordant Harmony


Poets my ancestors in Charyapada
talked a dialect that I myself don't know;
all their threads break in my hands.

I hear their words on my tongue
sound like birds flying
with the distant twilight wind,

their ideas that I try to understand
come up buzzing around me
like flies from a yellow landscape,

their dresses that I imagine
putting on like one back to the antiques
cause curiosity for museum curators.

Yet I read the calm of their lives,
even knowing that I am restless,
never to know their placid sophistries;

and all of my moments are longer -
proven to be rootless like hyacinths
floating on the sluggish floodwater.


Dog-eared pages I turn and learn
nothing of love's music, I don't let it sing.
It's on my lust's slippery track I glide.

Yet, medieval lyrics of amour I read,
the man who spent his nights
in the wild pleasures of the flesh.

In a clime of lusty snares I scrutinize
Krishna's bites on Radha's breasts,
their trysts in the lonely groves.

I know from shivers for each other -
passion's heat is stronger than lust's;
how can I hold so much of love?


As for singers of Mymensingh Ballads,
they all have risen from this
common ground I rarely step on.

Their songs might have entered
my ancestors' lungs like smoke
from their much-adored hookahs.

I remember the sing-along
in my Grandpa's backyard, everyone
trying to sing out above the rest,

melodies to glide with on grace.
But it's only in my heart's chamber
a discordant harmony that I hear -

out of tune with the ballads
that stem from this very soil and give
oxygen to our yellowed psyche.


Strange that nothing comes soothing
for a double-born kid that I am,
bristling with tales of grief and torture.

I have seen this world's lights fade
and the gleams that I have gleaned
off my gold never crowd into me.

No, that's not all I have so far told.
Yes, I grope for a lighted knot
in the valley of vapours and mist

and I miss the visions long-
drawn from Lalon's dark well; I carry
on my shoulders a burden of guilt,

for I have put around my neck
a garland of delights and glimmers,
never carried into his wild mystery.

Oh, how come birds in and out of the cage!
How can I tune in with Lalon songs
as I see flames of fire burn slow?


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Comments (2)

This time also you are no more deviated from your characteristics and qualities of the good poetry, it’s a nice expression of your ignorance about the mysteries of the ancestor philosophers and it is really critical to perceive the real meaning of the ideas of that age or time. But the pursuers of the true knowledge are surely supposed to be aware of their knowledge and ideas before or after. Good piece of personal expression with various countryside images.
Indeed a discordant harmony. It has been a while since I read a more matured work - being a woman who is always looking for beauty, and more beauty and just more of it in poetry - I agree I had to be decisive about this one in a different way - I admire you mauturity and profoundness of thought here. Your language as usual is vibrant. And thanks for the dedication. I am honoured. Nibedita Deb.