Given in Measurement

[translated poetry]

I

Given in measurement. Play seasons.
Beneath bushes of fog, face blades,

get knotty, all the while be back, pelvis,
exchange of oxygen and photosynthesis.

Lust as shears. Slight air supply, then:
Breathe, raise arms shoulder-high,

a beelined shoot axis. Put up
defense with leaves (thorns, bugs, spiderwebs),

evaporation of the slightest.
The measurements knot in detail:

prune yourself.

II

Breed petals above petals
eye-angering colors.

Feed compound eyes.
Let snouts suck,

an agreement between sugar and scent.
How bees grapple with knotnotes.

Mechanisms of pressure and tilt, slight
explosions, here and there.

Dust on invisible hooks
seduces legs and chest.

III

Waver, carry. New fruits
spin, thin seeds

ringed with pollen dust.
Fruit flesh, fine white china.

The swarm closes in,
swirls, trembles, holds out, humming.

Spills, swept sunlight asunder
the queen’s decree.

Another cilia-haired,
self-whelped people

settling in the next knothole.
A restless black eye.

IV

A thicket spanned by hunter bees.
The world of petals falls in autumn.

When work is finished: a battle
of drones against the swarm.

Small, truncated bodies, dethorned,
enfeebled by their own power,

starved under dews, the hole of flight
only a pinch away.

V

Dance circles seek the utmost distance
between the people and feeding grounds.

The swarm prunes itself, dabs
when juice seeps in honeycombs.

Hardly self-sufficient—as if it were all
for geometrical perfection.

Freely, the stacks quiet
by worker bees’ to-and-fro.

Scooting closer in ever-shifting
positions. Warm by trembling.

To care for progeny:
exchange of secretions.

Carry, dry-out, blanket
the future with wax.

Glue the smallest gaps with resin:
dream of an equally skittering winter.

 

 

Vorhanden in Vermessung

I

In Vermessung vorhanden. Jahreszeiten spielen.
Unter Nebelbüschen sich Klingen stellen,

verästelt warden, dabei Rücken sein, Becken,
Austausch von Sauerstoff und Fotosynthese.

Lust als Schere. Leichte Luftzufuhr, dann
atmend die Arme bis zur Schulter heben,

schnurstracks Sprossachse warden. Mit Blättern
Gegenwehr leisten (Dornen, Käfern, Spinnweben),

der Verflüchtigun noch von Geringstem.
Die Vermessung binden an ein Detail,

sich beschneiden.

II

Blüten über Blüten ausbilden,
Die Augen empörende Farben.

Futterquelle warden unterm Gitterblick.
Rüssel an sich asaugen lassen,

Verständigung über Zucker und Duft.
Wie die Biene sich über Fruchtknoten hermachen.

Druck- und Klappmechanismen,
hier und da kleine Explosionen.

Staub an unsichtbaren Haken
verführt Beine und Brust.

III

Schwingen, tragen. Neue Früchte
warden gezirkelt, hauchdünne Samen,

darum Ringe aus Pollenstaub.
Fruchtfleisch, weißes und feines Porzellan.

Der Schwarm schließt dichter,
wirbelt, vibriert, verharrt summend.

Fällt, von Sonne durchweht,
ein Entscheid der Königin.

Ein weiteres, filmmerhaariges
von sich selbst verjüngtes Volk,

das die nächste Baumachsel besidelt.
Ruheloses schwarzes Auge.

IV

Dickicht, durquert von Spurbienen.
Die Welt der Blätter fällt in den Herbst.

Nach getaner Arbeit: Schlacht
der Drohnen gegen den Schwarm.

Kleine, verkürzte Körper, entstachelt,
geschwächt von der eigenen Macht,

verhungert unter Tau,
Zentimeter vor dem Flugloch.

V

Tanzkreise auf der Suche nach dem größten Abstand
zwischen Futterplatz und Volk.

Der Schwarm beschneidet sich selbst,
schabt sich aus, wenn Saft sickert in Waben.

Kaum Eigenversorgung, als geschähe all dies
zur Vervollkommnung von Geometrie.

Freiwillig stiller im Magazin
die Gänge der Arbeitsbienen.

Näherrücken in standing wechselnden
Positionen. Wärme durch Zittern.

Fürsorge für den Nachwuchs:
Austausch von Sekreten.

Umtragen, Trocknen, Zukunft
verdeckeln mit Wachs.

Verkleben kleinster Öffnungen mit Harz:
Traum von einem gleichgültig dahinjagenden Winter.

 

Patty Nash is a poet and translator from Germany and Oregon. Her poems and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in The CollagistInter | rupturePreludethe Offing, and elsewhere. She is currently completing her MFA in poetry at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and tweets at @pattynashdj.

Karla Reimert is a German poet. Her first book, Picknick mit Schwarzen Bienen (Picknick with Black Bees), was published in 2014 and won the Berlin Literaturwerkstatt’s Prize for Best Debut. Reimert has won the Würth Poetry Prize, the Rheinsberg Author Forum Prize, and the Essay Prize for the Japanese Consulate.

De roses et d’épines: English, French, & Portuguese

[self-translated poetry]

Roses and spines

The widow’s shaven head
Welcomes the knights of the apocalypse

Sunbeams
Arrows of the day
The husband’s soul
Escapes from the body

The widow’s shaven head
Welcomes the knights of the apocalypse

 


Antidote

He was handsome but ”la fille de Joie” [1]
did not let herself go.

Love is a virus with which we inoculate
Ourselves when we have sold the antidote

to the enemy

 


Ignorance

Tchimpadou [2] !
I do not know!

I do not know the accents of my mother tongue
The scattered vocabulary of a language in the twilight of its time.

I do not know the name of the ancestors
From the father of Ngoumini [3] , to the brother of Tchilongo [4] , counter clerks of
the tombs
I do not know the dance steps of millet ears
Of a field yellowed with doubt
Counsel to tales, stories to legends
I do not know the ritual of the widow’s midnight bath
Even less the initiatory direction of the ballet of the circumcised.
I do not know how to interpret dreams
The limits of my culture!
Ah! This girl in agony
I do not know, I do not know yet
How to dialogue with the dead
These heroes pace the corridors of darkness when night has fallen
When the bitter song of a beaten cur rises.

 


Diwangou coffee

My ambition remains imposing.
It is from this that I learn how to cherish
The ground of men with sides lacerated
by the spiteful wires which trample this ground
which has already given all without complaint.

 


Sounds

With naked madwomen,
The clothed men
On the market square,
Take off the last garments of honour.

Strange wish,
Incipient happiness is stretched
In the plain.

Sing your sorrow.
The son in mourning venerates
The reflection of the moon.

The bad spirit
Communicates with its double,
The Ju ju man

The valley hops
In the throats of Diosso
The squirrel becomes wise.

Dance until death
Cry out when we can speak no more,
My language dies.

The day will be born on the hill.
The volcano will be quiet forever.

 

 

De roses et d’épines

Le crâne rasé de la veuve
Accueille les chevaliers de l’apocalypse

Rayons de soleil
Flèches du jour
L’âme de l’époux
S’échappe du corps

Le crâne rasé de la veuve
Accueille les chevaliers de l’apocalypse.

 


Antidote

Il était beau mais la fille de joie
Ne s’est pas laissée allée.

L’amour est un virus que l’on s’inocule
A soi même quand on a vendu l’antidote
A l’ennemi.

 


Ignorance

Tchimpadou [5]  !
Je ne connais pas

Je ne connais pas les accents de ma langue maternelle
Le vocabulaire épars d’une langue au crépuscule de son temps.

Je ne connais pas le nom des ancêtres
Du père de Ngoumini [6] , du frère de Tchilongo [7] , guichetiers des tombes

Je ne connais pas le pas de la danse du mil
Epis d’un champ jauni au doute
Des conseils aux contes, des histoires aux légendes
Je ne connais pas le rituel du bain de minuit de la veuve
Encore moins la direction initiatique du ballet du circoncis.
Je ne connais pas interpréter les rêves
Les bornes de ma culture ! Ah ! Cette fille a l’agonie
Je ne connais pas, je ne connais pas encore
Dialoguer avec les défunts
Ces héros arpentant les couloirs des ténèbres la nuit tombée
Quand s’élève le chant amer d’une chienne battue.

 


Diwangou café

Mon ambition demeure grandiose.
C’est d’elle que j’apprends à chérir
la terre des hommes au flanc lacéré
par les fils ingrats qui piétinent ce sol
qui a déjà tout donner sans plaintes.

 


Sons

Aux folles nues,
Les hommes vêtus, sur la place du marché,
Otent les derniers haillons d’honneur.

Etrange souhait,
Le bonheur naissant s’étire
Dans la plaine.

Chante ta peine.
Le fils en deuil vénère
Le reflet de la lune.

Le mauvais esprit
Communique avec son double,
Le féticheur.

La vallée sautille
Dans les gorges de Diosso
L’écureuil devient sage.

Danser à pâlir
Pousser des cris pour parler,
Mon langage meurt.

Le jour naîtra sur la colline.
Le volcan sera silencieux à jamais.

 

 

Rosas e espinhos

A cabeça rapada da viúva
Dá as boas-vindas aos cavaleiros do apocalipse

Raios de sol
Flechas do dia
A alma do marido
A abandonar o corpo

A cabeça rapada da viúva
Dá as boas-vindas aos cavaleiros do apocalypse

 


Antídoto

Ele era jeitoso mas ”la fille de Joie” [8]
Não se deixou levar.

O amor é um vírus com o qual nos inoculamos
Depois de vendermos o antídoto
ao inimigo

 


Ignorância

Tchimpadou [9] !
Não sei!

Não conheço os sotaques da minha língua materna
O vocabulário disperso de uma língua no limiar do seu tempo.

Não conheço o nome dos antepassados
Do pai de Ngoumini [10] , ao irmão do Tchilongo [11] , amanuenses
das tumbas
Não conheço os passos de dança das espigas de milho-miúdo
De um campo amarelecido com a dúvida
Conselhos para contos, histórias para lendas
Não conheço o ritual do banho da meia-noite da viúva
Ainda menos o sentido iniciático do ballet dos circuncidados.
Não sei como interpretar sonhos
Os limites da minha cultura!
Ah! Esta moça em agonia
Não sei, ainda não sei
Como dialogar com os mortos
Estes heróis percorrem os corredores das trevas quando a noite cai
Quando se levanta o latido pungente de um cachorro maltratado.

 


O café de Diwangou

A minha ambição mantém-se imponente.
É dela que eu aprendo a guardar no meu íntimo
O chão de homens com flancos lacerados
pelos arames rancorosos que esmagam este chão
que já deu tudo sem se queixar.

 


Sons

Com malucas nuas,
O homem vestido
No largo do mercado,
Despe-se das últimas roupagens da honra.

Estranho desejo,
Felicidade incipiente estende-se
Na planície.

Canta as tuas mágoas.
O filho enlutado venera
O reflexo da lua.

O espírito mau
Comunica com o seu duplo,
O homem enfeitiçado

O vale salta
Nas gargantas de Diosso
O esquilo torna-se sábio.

Dança até à morte
Chora quando já não podemos falar,
A minha língua morre.

O dia vai nascer na colina.
O vulcão calar-se-á para sempre.

 

Author’s note:

[1] Prostitute

[2] Female head of the soko clan. Tribe from the dense forest of Central Africa which inherited 1000 words at the start of life. Everyone who dies takes 30 words to go and speak to the dead. Each newborn arrives with one word. The Soko people will only find speech again when the original 1000 words are reunited.

[3] Ancestor

[4] Ancestor

[5] Femme chef du clan Soko. Une tribu de la forêt dense d’Afrique Centrale qui a reçu en héritage mille mots au début du monde. Chaque mort emporte trente mots pour communiquer avec les morts. Chaque nouveau né arrive au monde avec un mot. Le people Soko retrouve la parole seulement quand les mille mots d’origine sont réunis.

[6] Ancêtre

[7] Ancêtre

[8] Prostituta

[9] Mulher chefe do clã Soko. Tribo da densa floresta da África Central que herdou 1000 palavras no princípio do tempo. Cada pessoa que morre leva consigo 30 palavras para falar com os mortos. Cada recém-nascido chega com uma palavra. O povo Soko só voltará a encontrar o discurso quando as 1000 palavras originais forem reunidas.

[10] Antepassado

[11] Antepassado

 

Landa wo is a poet from Angola, Cabinda, and France. His work has previously appeared in Cultura – Jornal Angolano de Artes e Letras, Blackmail Press, Boyne Berries, Cyphers, Nashville Review, Scrivener Creative Review, Star 82 Review, Raleigh Review, Poetry New Zealand, The Cape Rock, and Weyfarers, among others. Landa wo has won a number of awards including first prize in Metro Eireann writing competition 2007, Eist poetry competition 2006, and Feile Filiochta international poetry competition 2005.

 

5 Poems by Feng Na

[translated poetry]

Chinese Fable

When I was small my father’s coworker ran off
coming back with one of those briefcases full of money
close, smutty talk filled our town
about what he’d done to get it
he smiled and disappeared again
Next we heard
he’d been sentenced to death for drug trafficking
a family member claimed the ashes, but the box was stolen in the metro
—It obsesses me, this box
like a fable or something
Other people are like me
they want to know its whereabouts
like standing at the exit
searching for this story’s entrance

 


Searching for Cranes

Cattle hidden in the prairie shadows
Bayinbuluke     I have met a rearer of cranes
his beaked neck
his broken-winged brogue
Cranes dip into the water’s surface
for nine inverted suns
He makes me feel the prairie
misses something of itself

The evening indulges itself in vastness
I wait for cranes to burst from his sleeves
I wish another would drop from the sky
narrow-faced, thin-ankled     myself
loved by the rearer of cranes, spurned
and fatuously clinging
Four cornered wildness
She has a hundred and eight ways to hide
to find her, he needs only one:
at night in Bayinbuluke
the cranes he’s touched     must all return to roost

 


Greeting

-After listening to Masi Cong’s “Homesick”

That is no bow
but a tree not yet carved into bow
All my life a river, running low
with fever, has          drawn itself
across my body

 


In Memory of my Uncle He Daoqing

Camellia growing on Xiaowanzi,
forgive a lame man his leg
his timing was poor
he hauled away for half his life
before he found the branch you grew on

 


The Spring Wind Blows

What drab mercy    is this noontime pool
a bird flies to the other bank
felled sugar cane disrupts the mist

By the peach tree is a windswept grave
bees busy themselves long-shoring
this season what is sweet     is hard to come by
no birds fly above
to open a vigil keeper’s chest
the earth hums
unknowing of the glories carved into the rocks
the sorrows passed down
as heirlooms

 


Rifle

I’ve memorized the order: open the breech, load powder and bullets,
close the breech.
Shut my left eye, pretend to be a hunter taking aim.
A bird falls, the trees shudder and descend into deeper quiet.
The metallic cold gives off a living stench.
Since growing up I’ve often smelled it in crowds.
I know the trigger pull and the instant of fire.
I’m glad to live in a country where guns are not for sale.

 

 

中国寓言

小时候,父亲的一位同事停薪留职不知所踪
某天突然出现,腰缠万贯满面春风
关于他的经历,在当地秘密而热闹地流传
他笑而不答,旋即再次消失
再一次听到他的消息
因贩毒在另一个省份被执行死刑
家人领回他的骨灰盒,却在车站被人偷走
——像一个诡异的寓言,它困扰着我
很多人和我一样
一直想知道那个骨灰盒的下落
就像站在出口
想知道这个故事的入口

 


寻鹤

牛羊藏在草原的阴影中
巴音布鲁克 我遇见一个养鹤的人
他有长喙一般的脖颈
断翅一般的腔调
鹤群掏空落在水面的九个太阳
他让我觉得草原应该另有模样

黄昏轻易纵容了辽阔
我等待着鹤群从他的袍袖中飞起
我祈愿天空落下另一个我
她有狭窄的脸庞 瘦细的脚踝
与养鹤人相爱 厌弃 痴缠
四野茫茫 她有一百零八种躲藏的途径
养鹤人只需一种寻找的方法:
在巴音布鲁克
被他抚摸过的鹤 都必将在夜里归巢

 


问候

——听马思聪《思乡曲》
那不是谁的琴弓
是谁的手伸向未被制成琴身的树林
一条发着低烧的河流
始终在我身上 慢慢拉

 


纪念我的伯伯和道清

小湾子山上的茶花啊,
请你原谅一个跛脚的人
他赶不上任何好时辰
他驮完了一生,才走到你的枝桠下面

 


春风到处流传

正午的水泽 是一处黯淡的慈悲
一只鸟替我飞到了对岸
雾气紧随着甘蔗林里的砍伐声消散

春风吹过桃树下的墓碑
蜜蜂来回搬运着 时令里不可多得的甜蜜
再没有另一只鸟飞过头顶
掀开一个守夜人的心脏
大地嗡嗡作响
不理会石头上刻满的荣华
也不知晓哪一些将传世的悲伤

 


猎枪

我默记它的顺序:开膛、填进火药铁弹子、上膛
捂着左眼模仿真正的猎人们怎么用一只眼瞄准
一只鸟掉下去,山林抖过之后跌进更深的寂静
铁质的冰冷,冒着生灵附体的腥气
成年后我常常会在人群中嗅到这种气味
我知道扣动扳机的时刻和走火的瞬间
常常庆幸生在一个不允许私人持枪的国度

 

Translator’s Statement

Here are five poems by Chinese poet, Feng Na. Feng writes about transit, migration, yearning, the great fight for recognition, and the pain of it being denied us. Each poem, I think, offers a window into contemporary China, yet explodes narrow notions of Chinese poets as mere dissidents, or noble savages—as though their poems were good as pamphlets, or expressions of their “authentic, ethnic selves,” but nothing else.

Feng’s poem, “Rifle,” ends with these chilling words: “I’m glad to live in a country where guns are not for sale.” They ought to strike a nerve deep in the American psyche, troubled by school shootings and upsurges in white terrorism, and terrified that America has lost its moral mandate in geopolitics—lost the right to say, in other words, See how barbaric things are in China? Yet the poem eludes this single reading: it is also about sublimation—wanting to harm someone, but transforming this hate into poetry.

“Chinese Fable,” on the other hand, could easily be about the massive economic developments sweeping China in the last several decades, bringing it from one of the poorest and most egalitarian countries, to one of the wealthiest and most unequal. As Chinese markets liberalized some folks were willing to do anything to prosper—thus the man in this fable who is put to death for “drug trafficking.” Yet the speaker of the poem herself cannot monopolize its meaning, which is why she says that it is like a fable. We might say, just as convincingly, that this is a poem about the surplus meaning that escapes even the most airtight analyses, just like the man’s ashes, “stolen at the metro.”

The richness in Feng’s poems complicates our ideas of a China “over there.” Reading her, we realize that we cannot define ourselves against her—we are imbricated with her, just as, halfway across the world, whether she means to or not, her words give us pause.

 

Henry Zhang is a master’s student at Beijing Normal University. His writing and translations have appeared in Drunken Boat, Los Angeles Review of Books, Music and Literature Magazine, and Leap. He is the recipient of the 2017 Henry Luce Translation Fellowship, and his translations have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

 

Feng Na was born in Lijiang, Yunnan province, China. She is ethnically Bai. Feng works in her alma mater, Sun Yat-sen University, and is a member of the China Writers Association. Her collections include Chosen Night, Numberless Lights, Searching for Cranes, and Tibet in a Season. Her poems have been translated into English and Russian, and have won her numerous awards, including the Lu Xun Literary Award for Guangdong Province, as well as a nomination for the Pushcart Prize. She was the 12th poet-in-residence at Capital Normal University.

LONELY POET, QUIET RESTAURANT/ ONLY YOU

[translated poetry]

LONELY POET, QUIET RESTAURANT

Words in the head, restaurant nearby
Clouds have amassed in the month of Asharh reminding of
Distressed days—streets are bumpy all over.
Who knows when they’ll be cleared of mud-heaps!

In these hours he has to find a way out.
Poetry and coffee are waiting for him.
Suddenly rain starts, with thunderbolts.
The poet falls down slipping.

His whole body gets smudged with mud.
Should he still go now?
He stands motionless passing hours.
Yet, does love stop its course?
It continues to stay even in distress.

Though streets are slippery, clothes muddy,
Walk, keep walking, don’t delay.
However frantic or antagonistic time is—
Don’t stop flow of poetry.

Is poetry to remain static?
After a storm, take a notebook in hand.
Coffee and light from the restaurant beckon,
Milk is replaced by memories, black coffee and words.

2.
Flowers in the vase dispensing rain-soaked smell
Create illusion in the restaurant at night.
Whose unfurled hair falls on the lonesome chest?
The crazy Padma devours land during Asharh.

Fire flares up, wants to jump straight—
It’s not easy to forget burning.
The poet went to stars, not the past
That day he knew the heavenly touch.

Now flowers and hair smell the same.
Now it’s only smell, only darkness.

3.
The smell of steaming coffee. Two flowers drawn in a plate
Have hugged each other in two long stalks.
The poet came to the restaurant many times
And endured pangs
Of separation alone. This Asharh it rained a lot.

The notebook to write poetry is nearby.
Alone in the restaurant, the poet continues
Sipping coffee.
Vast is the world, everything can be
A subject matter of poetry.
But today there’s nothing except a
Sole face.

The first light of dawn falls on the face every day.
Love continues—but coffee ends
As he keeps sipping.

4.
She’s gone, but the poet is still in the restaurant.
He slowly pours black coffee in a white plate.
This is that chair, this is that table.
Still blue, window curtains rustle.
Loneliness is white, death deep black.
What made life meaningful was lost in an instant.

Flowers and ashtrays are still on the table.
Only she’s no more. Ash in the ashtray flies
In despondent air as a reminiscence today.
The flowers still smell in the restaurant.
Light goes out in a river of memory.
The fountain pen has water instead of ink.

 


ONLY YOU

Leaving you behind
Can I go anywhere?
You’re my flag, the delta of agriculture.

Dream of my palms, you’re the smell of aman rice
Brush of my artwork.
Rhythm of poetry, you’re my words,
The very first utterance of a child.

Thirteen hundred milk rivers flow within you.
I descend from hills to the plains

Like a new strip of land, your cheeks are wakeful
You’re mine—in love, I’m yours.

You shine forth all around so gracefully
Wherever I go, I see you, only you.
Even in the dark, I feel you in my breath,
You also exist in the first light of dawn!

 

 

নিঃসঙ্গ কবি, নির্জন রেস্তোরাঁ

মাথার ভেতরে লেখা। অদূরে রেস্তোরাঁ।
আষাঢ় সেজেছে খুব মেঘে মেঘে-মনে সে করাবে
বিরহ বিপন্ন দিন-রাস্তাঘাট আদ্যোপান্ত খোঁড়া।
মাটির পাহাড়গুলো কতদিনে কে জানে সরাবে!

এরই মধ্যে পথ করে নিতে হবে আজ।
অপেক্ষায় কবিতা ও কফি।
হঠাৎ বৃষ্টির শুরু, ধমকাল বাজ।
পিছলে পা পড়ে গেল কবি।

সমস্ত শরীরে কাদা। এভাবে কি যাওয়া যেতে পারে?
বিমূঢ় দাঁড়িয়ে থেকে কেটে যায় কাল।
তবুও কি প্রেম কিছু ছাড়ে?
বিরহেও রয়েছে বহাল!

যদিও পিছল পথ, জামা কাদা লেপা।
হেঁটে চলো,হেঁটে চলো,দাঁড়িয়ে থেকো না।
সময় যতই হোক বিরুদ্ধ বা খেপা-
কবিতাকে ঠেকিয়ে রেখো না।

কবিতা কি থেমে থাকবার!
দুর্গতির একশেষ, খাতা তবু শক্ত হাতে ধরা।
হাতছানি দেয় কফি, আলো রেস্তোরাঁর,
দুধের বদলে স্মৃতি, কালো কফি, শব্দের শর্করা


বৃষ্টিভেজা গন্ধ ছড়ায় ফুলদানিতে ফুল।
ঘটিয়ে দেয় ইন্দ্রজাল রাতের রেস্তোরাঁয়।
একলা বুকে আছড়ে পড়ে ও কার খোলা চুল।
আষাঢ় এলে পদ্মা পাগল-পেলেই ভূমি খায়!

আগুন ওঠে দপদপিয়ে, লাফাতে চায় খাড়া-
ভোলা তো খুব সহজ নয় চিরে ফেলার ধাঁচ।
অতীতও নয় গেছেন কবি নক্ষত্রের পাড়া,
সেদিন কবি জেনেছিলেন স্বর্গীয় তার আঁচ।

ফুলের সাথে চুলের গন্ধ এখন একাকার।
এখন শুধু গন্ধটুকুই-এবং অন্ধকার ু


কফির গরম গন্ধ। পেয়ালায় আঁকা দুটি ফুল
দীর্ঘ দুটি বৃন্তে তারা পরস্পর জড়িয়ে রয়েছে।
কত দীর্ঘদিন কবি রেস্তোরাঁয় এসেছে ও
একাকী সহেছে
বিরহ বিচ্ছেদ তার। আষাঢ়ের বৃষ্টিপাত হয়েছে তুমুল।

কবিতার খাতাটি পাশেই।
রেস্তোরাঁয় একা কবি চুমুকে চুমুকে
পান করে চলে কফি।
পৃথিবী বিপুল আর লেখার বিষয় তার
হতে পারে সবই।
কিন্তু আজ সেই মুখ-একটি সে মুখ ছাড়া
আর কিছু নেই।

ভোরের প্রথম আলো প্রতি ভোরে পড়ে সেই মুখে।
ফুরোয় না ভালোবাসা-কফি শেষ হয়ে যায়
চুমুকে চুমুকে


সে নেই,তবুও কবি আসে রেস্তোরাঁয়।
ধীরে কালো কফি ঢালে শাদা পেয়ালায়।
এই সে চেয়ার আর এই সে টেবিল।
জানালার পর্দা ওড়ে এখনো তো নীল।
শূন্যতার রং শাদা, মৃত্যু ঘন কালো।
যা ছিল জীবনব্যাপী-মুহূর্তে মিলাল।

এখনো টেবিলে ফুল-ছাইদান পড়ে।
কেবল সে নেই আর। স্মৃতি হয়ে ওড়ে
ছাইদানে ছাই আজ করুণ বাতাসে।
রেস্তোরাঁয় সেদিনের ফুলগন্ধ ভাসে।
স্মৃতির নদীতে নেভা আলোর বিকন।
কালির কলমে লেখা জলের লিখন

 


তুমিই শুধু তুমি

আমি কি আর তোমাকে ছেড়ে
কোথাও যেতে পারি?
তুমি আমার পতাকা, আমার কৃষির বদ্বীপ।

করতলের স্বপ্ন-আমন ধানের গন্ধ তুমি
তুমি আমার চিত্রকলার তুলি।
পদ্য লেখার ছন্দ তুমি সকল শব্দভুমি।
সন্তানের মুখে প্রথম বুলি।

বুকে তোমার দুধের নদী সংখ্যা তেরো শত।
পাহাড় থেকে সমতলে যে নামি

নতুন চরের মতো তোমার চিবুক জাগ্রত
তুমি আমার, প্রেমে তোমার আমি।

এমন তুমি রেখেছ ঘিরে এমন করে সব
যেদিকে যাই তুমিই শুধু তুমি!
অন্ধকারেও নিঃশ্বাসে পাই তোমার অনুভব,
ভোরের প্রথম আলোতেও তো তুমি!

 

Translator’s Statement:

Syed Shamsul Haq, one of the leading poets and writers of Bengali literature, is best known as an ambidextrous author—his work is powerful both in content and style. Bengali speaking people around the world read and praise his poems and novels. His dramas, mostly written in verse, are also popular, and they are staged for a wider audience around the country. His work is also critically acclaimed, and he received all the great and prestigious national prizes for his outstanding contributions to literature. Haq deals with a wide range of themes, including Bangladeshi reality, love, human suffering, conflict, and so on. A major portion of his work features the Liberation War of Bangladesh that took place in 1971, resulting in the emergence of Bangladesh, though at the cost of millions of lives. A valuable poetic voice, Haq deserves to be translated into English for a wider audience.

As an enthusiast of poetry, I love reading poems, both Bengali and English, by various poets in Bangladesh and around the world. Besides writing poetry in English, I translate from Bengali, my mother tongue, into English. Bengali literature is very rich and needs to reach global readership through extensive translation. With that note, I would like to state that I feel inspired to translate major poets and fiction writers of Bengali literature into English.

Haq is one of my favorite poets, but it is distressing that he has not drawn widespread attention for translation, though a few works by him have appeared in English translation recently. After translating a few of his short stories, I have attempted to carry across his poems into English. It would be my distinct pleasure to translate a book-length work of the poet, and I look forward to the project. Translation, to me, is inevitable, because without translation we cannot imagine the contemporary world or build bridges between nations. Literary translation connects countries and continents, widening scopes for cultural collaborations.

“Lonely Poet, Quiet Restaurant” and “Only You” are among Haq’s important poems. While translating, I cast emphasis, in general, on the intended meaning of the original text. Instead of being more faithful to the original, I attempt to concentrate on flow and readability in the target language. The same is true about these two poems—I have attempted to keep the intended meaning of the original intact in the translation. Both poems are charged with deep emotion, so I have endeavored to render the romantic atmosphere for the target audience. Without hinging upon the original, I have carried across the poet’s “mind’s speech.” Literary translation, no doubt, is my area of interest and passion, and translating Bengali poetry for international readers is always special for me. Translating Haq’s work into English, thus, gives me immense pleasure.

 

Mohammad Shafiqul Islam is author of three books: Wings of Winds (Poetry, 2015), Humayun Ahmed: Selected Short Stories (Translation, 2016), and Aphorisms of Humayun Azad (Translation, 2017). In February 2017, he was a poet-in-residence at the Anuvad Arts Festival, India, and his poetry and translation have appeared in Critical Survey, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, Poem, SNReviewReckoning, Dibur, Armarolla, Light, Bengal Lights, and elsewhere. His work has been anthologized in a number of books, including The Book of Dhaka: A City in Short Fiction. He is a PhD candidate in the Department of English, Assam University, India, and teaches English at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Sylhet, Bangladesh.

Syed Shamsul Haq (1935-2016), a leading Bangladeshi poet, is also widely known as an ambidextrous writer and a renowned playwright. Haq chose writing as the sole profession for his livelihood, an example which is rare in the history of Bengali literature. He enriches Bengali literature by contributing a wide range of poetry, fiction, and drama. His work features Bangladeshi reality along with universal themes of literature. He received prestigious literary prizes, including Ekushey Padak, Bangla Academy Award, and Independence Award. His notable works include Payer Awaj Pawa Jai, Nuruldiner Sara Jibon,Khelaram Khele Ja, Duratwa, Neel Dongshan, Nishiddho Loban, and Boishekhe Rochito Ponktimala.

 

FOR THE FILMS OF NURI BILGE CEYLAN

[translated poetry]

He had said, My woman, come to the lamppost when the coldest night arrives There will
be a rock / Sit on it Or at least set your heart on it / The fog will envelop you from all
sides On this canvas of fog, your breath will be visible like sweeps of a paintbrush Even
in that coldest night you’ll remove your gloves / With your cold hands touch your belly /
Near your navel you’ll find images of my caresses those you’ll try reading in braille

A shiver will pass through the icy land of your nose

The coldest night comes only once in a year
Our coldest night will come once in our life

 

With my eyes closed I stand here
As promised under the lamppost
Sweeping with my hand a piece of fog
Trying to peer far across

My clothes fight the cold The damp that descends on them is an experienced fellow /
Says in its slippery wet voice Go home, girl… Go back home There will be nights colder
than this The warmth is presently away on loan

I do not know which night that will be
So I stand here from the first day of winter
My body becomes a thermometer

I hear the sound of someone coming
Whoever is coming is only fog

Whoever is coming will only be fog

My woman,
You’ve gone far away from me
Disappeared even from the sight of my
memory
That I cannot recognise your face now

That I cannot remember you
Just by one face

Things that reminded me of you
Came into being
When you left
This is how I’m bound to our past

Only an outline remains of a cold morning:
A shape filled with dots
Today is an eye
Yesterday gone by, a scene
A hazy h hangs between the two—

The niqab of fog looks good on you

 

 

नूरी बिल्गे जेलान की फिल्मों के लिए

मेरी स्‍त्री, जब सबसे ठंडी रात आएगी, तुम इस लैंपपोस्ट के नीचे आ जाना / यहां एक पत्थर है, तुम
इस पर बैठ जाना / न भी बैठना, तो भी अपने मन को यहां ज़रूर बिठाले रखना / चारों ओर कोहरा
होगा / तुम्हारी सांसें कोहरे के कैनवास पर ब्रश के स्ट्रोक्स की तरह होंगी / सबसे ठंडी रात में भी तुम
अपने दस्ताने उतारोगी और अपने ठंडे हाथों से अपने पेट का स्पर्श करोगी / तुम्हारी नाभि के पास मेरी
छुअन से बनी पेंटिंग्स होंगी / मेरे स्पर्श के चित्र को तुम ब्रेल लिपि में पढ़ोगी

तुम्हारे नाक की हिमभूमि पर सिहरन होगी

सबसे ठंडी रात साल में एक बार आएगी
हमारे जीवन की सबसे ठंडी रात जीवन में सिर्फ़ एक बार आएगी

 

मैं तब से अपनी आंखें मूंदे यहां खड़ी हूं
वादे के मुताबिक़ एक लैंपपोस्ट के नीचे
कोहरे के टुकड़े को हाथों से हटाकर
दूर तक देखने की कोशिश करती हुई

मेरे कपड़े ठंड से लड़ रहे हैं / उन पर जमा हो रहा गीलापन बेहद अनुभवी है / वह गीलापन एक गीली
आवाज़ में ही कहता है / मेरी मानो, घर लौट जाओ / अभी इससे भी ठंडी कई रातें आएंगी / गर्मास
अभी क़र्ज़े पर चढ़ी हुई रहेगी

मुझे नहीं पता, वह कौन-सी रात होगी
मैं सर्दियों की शुरुआत में ही यहां खड़ी हो जाती हूं
मेरी देह तापमान मापने वाला यंत्र बन जाती है

ऐसा लगता है, कोई इस तरफ़ आ रहा है
जो आ रहा है, वह भी कोहरा ही है

मेरी स्‍त्री,
तुम इतनी दूर पहुंच चुकी हो,
स्मृति की दृष्टि से भी ओझल
कि अब तुम्हारा चेहरा नहीं पहचान सकता

तुम्हें सिर्फ़ एक चेहरे से याद भी नहीं कर सकता

इस तरह बनता है अतीत से हमारा रिश्ता
कि जिन चीज़ों को देख तुम्हारी याद आती है
वे चीज़ें तुम्हारे चले जाने के बाद
वजूद में आई थीं

बस एक रेखाचित्र है सर्द सुबह का
एक आकृति है बिंदुओं से बनी हुई
आज एक आंख है
बीता हुआ कल एक दृश्य
दोनों के बीच एक धुंधला-सा ध है—

कोहरे का नक़ाब तुम पर फबता है

 

Translator’s Statement:

The poem “For the Films of Nuri Bilge Ceylan,” part of Geet Chaturvedi’s World Cinema series, appears in his poetry book Nyoonatam Main. It is a fine example of Chaturvedi being more a Borgesian writer who loves to play with intertextuality. He wrote his poems on Cinema after watching and meditating on various master filmmakers’ works. The poem is a delicious smorgasbord of impressions—a kind of conversation or poetic ‘jugalbandi’ held by the poet with the filmmaker—scenes from particular movies enmeshed with the improvised general mood created by the whole cinematic body of the master filmmaker. The poet’s voice keeps changing, at one level talking with the filmmaker, at the other talking with his lover, and at a much deeper level with the system. Fine experiments in incoherent form, the lines of the poem are like characters of a movie. They come as incomplete sentences and tell their incomplete stories. The completeness is derived from the many small incomplete instances that coalesce into one cohesive unit of cinematic beauty.

 

Anita Gopalan is a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant recipient. Her translated poetry chapbook, an Anomalous Press winner, is forthcoming in 2018. Her work has appeared in Poetry International, Words without Borders, Two Lines JournalWorld Literature Today, Asymptote, PEN America, Drunken BoatModern Poetry in Translation, Rhino, and elsewhere.

Geet Chaturvedi (b. 1977) is a writer of contemporary Hindi literature. He has authored seven books, including the highly acclaimed two collections of novellas, and two collections of poetry. His poems have been translated into seventeen languages. He was awarded Bharat Bhushan Agrawal Award for poetry, Krishna Pratap Award for fiction, and named one of “Ten Best Writers” of India by the reputed English Daily Indian Express. After spending sixteen years in journalism as the editor of Dainik Bhaskar, Chaturvedi spends much of his time now working on his novels Kavipriya and Ranikhet Xpress. He lives in Bhopal, India.