Poem by Arnab Saha

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LOWERED GUILLOTINE

Translated from the original Bengali by Kushal Poddar

1

The stormy shuttle car

climbs up the flyover.

My finger descends into your fist,

joyous, barrier breaking.

Shall stay in touch, infinity.

History’s curtain will come down

over the horizon of time.

Moments will guide ahead.

Rain falls on my chest,

windscreen…

2

‘Return, Archismān.’

When red ants smite the chrysalis

no caterpillar wings into its

butterfly future.

Explosions tear the frontier.

The enemy bunker is shattered

in a jiffy. Who, I don’t know

wipes the light’s beauty from within.

The birds of my lips

desire to lick with wet eyes!

Now evening will descend.

Azan is in the wind.

The old mosque

will be populated soon.

3

My birth took place in a morbid palace

with a canyon of a wound on my left brain.

Since then I cannot sleep at night.

The ether projectiles from the radio station

nail my grey cells,

say: May the memories fade!

Tear out the paintings done!

I step on the street,

and the rejected dreams

murmur to be insolvent once more.

Tells me to change the past

and flip the hourglass.

4

‘I smell other woman

on your body.’

Middle winter mellows.

Light dusks almost.

The shells of some peanuts

fly to and fro…someone

sniffs faithless sweat in the breeze.

What has not been said

ricochets amidst four walls.

Solitariness sleeps turning on its side.

A hushed voice

keeps its hand on the bed switch, s

says nothing, shakes,

‘I smell another man

on your soul.’

5

Death, an advertisement, was your nickname.

‘A sparrow’s shower is in one minute’s rain-spell’

Sung Kabir—even that tune has chocked on moss…

I turn the page and still your face is all that floats up!

6

The mustard seeds roll out in the breeze.

Once again the sceneries fling open the cages

to circle the azure, those folks of returning birds.

Sun drowns in the light of cobra pearl…

Once I retrieved a gem from the depth of water.

Its color was off white…the grain was strained with blood.

The one whose face appears on the red

mercury less mirror, even he was seen by me

on a wintry morning’s maidan—fading in

the foggy sunshine…The torn phrasings

of the poems hit by a calm tram to Khidderpur

are entangled and piled here and there.

7

Your precarious household was blown apart.

Shackles shivered along the torn seam.

Trouble’s long life rotted you from inside

day after day, and since then you have been

fighting with the sleep, talking to the mirror

at dawn. Someone advised you: ‘Sell all the clocks.

Past will be erased.’

Go and befriend a rat, ask him to open the hell-gates

through its holes so that darkness may traverse

the tunnel and see once more—

the down under of the earth, moon’s dark side.

8

Scheherazade spun a new tale every night

to keep the Sultan’s death at bay.

Thus 101 Arabian Nights was born. You too handed me

my death warrant once, August 5th, 1971,

Maidan’s foggy morning be its simile, when

they stopped the prison van, told me: ‘Run!’

Near the horizon, even at the time of touching the base

I didn’t get their time to press the triggers and shoot,

and at the time of putting my finger on the finish line

my blood soaked soul flew towards the alien planet,

toward the other end of death, where a thousand tales

clash with the audacity to travel space, and

meteors run with heavy stony hearts in order

to stand up for the Scheherazade’s proxy.

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Arnab Saha is a prominent Bengali poet of the '90s. Professor Arnab has largely been published in all major Bengali periodicals and newspapers. He has released seven collections of poems. Arnab availed Baden-Wuertemberg Senior Research Fellowship from Heidelberg University, Germany this year.

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