To Me My Country Now

To me my country is now a crematorium.
A lonely dog stands and whines all night, a few
Pyre-makers lie here and there, drunk to the bone.

My country is no more a vast expanse of
green croplands –
No more a fast-flowing river, or glittering lake.
No more a grass. No longer a flower nestled among thorns.

My country was my ma’s cotton sari end, the end
On which she wiped her sweat and tears and waited
at the border.
My country was the deep, dark eyes of Ma,
The eyes that bore wings and flew off into both sun and
nights, would
Find me wherever I floated, drowned, brought me to
found ground.
My country was my ma’s hand-wound hair-bun

Breaking loose, slumped to one side over all my shame.
My country
Was once puffed rice that Ma mixed with mustard oil,
fried hilsa
On a cloudy day, my favourite hotchpotch.

My country was the six pairs of bangles on my ma’s
wrist, red
Blue, green, orange, yellow, my country was
My glee of standing in the yard and calling out, “Ma-Ma!”
Snuggling under her quilt on a chilly winter night –
Sitting on shiuli-strewn grounds with a plateful of
winter savouries.

Time, the great stealer, packed in darkness afar –
Dug deep under mounds of silence lies
My country, maimed by people who fled
Un-named, there is no one I call my country now. I stand

Among a million pyres, a thirsty dog, and a few
drunken men.

A Passion for Solitude

I live alone – some people
Think I suffer from loneliness!

They think I must be up all night
Staring helplessly at those wooden ceiling beams, as if
I stumble
Upon the road every now and then when walking;
As if a herd of wild buffalo
Is forever chasing me, as if

A shiver of sharks will attack me
If I set a single foot in public water!
How do I make them understand?

I live alone – the way I wish to live.
If my house is ever overcrowded, I feel glum.
When people’s eyes follow me, I stand
There feeling awkward, embarrassed.
My days and nights fall flat and lay
Face downwards, on the entrance of my porch . . .

I feel the loneliest when I’m not alone any more.
When my well-wishers sit on my lap –

When a friend stands too close to me,
When those who love me fall over my head
In a bid to express their love –
I need to breathe, dodge the big stones
Thrown down those alleys of my thoughts as they bite
Huge chunks from my true self, and sniff at my
public blood.


I don’t write poetry, I write life on paper.
I don’t write poems; the wind that hits my body
When I stand on the top of a hill? I pen it down.

But I do write about love too!
I do it very secretly, though . . .

Sitting next to the black ocean in a deep, dark night,
I hear the lamenting sound of the waves in tears and
I pen it down. I go close to the river and write

About the chaos and noise the fishes, the kingfishers and
Human beings make. I’m not a poet, only a thirsty
Wanderer. I keep globetrotting, and note
The hissing sound of hatred . . .
I pen down wars.
I smell the stench emanating from
Piles of corpses and write about it.
When I see people busy killing people,

I write about it, I note it down.
If I don’t find a pen or ink,
I write with the blood of my fingers . . .

Yet always, I keep writing, until
There’s a way, I’ll point at the thorns in the way.
I’ll pen down the sorrow and pain,
I’ll write about the wails and laments
Of people’s unrestrained jealousy and anger.
I’ll write about the fire burning the forests,

And bring more light to the huffing of
Scared little sparrows, cheetahs and chital deer,
Running here and there to save their innocent lives.
Then, when all game ends, when all fall asleep in their
cosy beds,
I’ll sit down to write about love!

Another Life

Picking lice from each other’s hair
The women spend the afternoon
Squatting on the porch.
A committee of vultures, a gaggle of geese . . .
What is the name for a group of women?
They spend the evening feeding
Children and loving them to sleep in the glow of
the bottle
Lamp. The rest of the night they give their backs
To be slapped and kicked by the man of the house
Or sprawl, half-naked, on a hard wooden cot –

Crows and women greet the dawn together.
Women blow into the oven to start the fire,
Tap on the back of the winnowing tray with five fingers
And with two fingers pick out stones.
Crows sit in gangs on the line, black on black.
A flock of ravens? An unkindness.
Owls? A parliament. A host of sparrows.

Women spend half of their lives picking stones from rice.
Stones pile up in their hearts,
There’s no one to touch them with two fingers . . .
No wing on which to fly towards their murder.

Something or the Other

Some gluttonous men
Who think that women are fresh cuts of veal,
Who think we are mango jelly, boiled eggs or
Sweets made of milk, are something or other,

One thing or another. Some sick men
Think of women as diseases, stagnant pools,
Garbage dumps of parasites.
They think of us as inferior
Forlorn creatures of the earth, one
And another amongst themselves, desperate for a cure.

Some religious fanatic cowards
Think of women as grotesque life forms
Fashioned from men’s leftover ribs,
Tasty morsels offered up for amorous sport, one
Or many gathered in the kitchen, starving.

There’ll always be some shit in this world,
Some fetid essence or another, something
In the hollow wind against which we walk.

Excerpted with permission from Burning Roses In My Garden, Taslim Nasrin, edited and translated from the Bengali by Jesse Waters, Penguin India.