Let us say you dream of a woman,
and because she isn’t anywhere around,
imagine her across the border.
You travel hunched and twisted in a crowded bus,
on a ferry through opaque night
lacerated by searchlights,
to this squalid frontier town:
a one-legged rickshahwallah takes round
to a six-by-eight room, the best in the best hotel.
But instead of crossing over you lie dreaming
of the woman, and the border:
perfect knife that slices through the earth
without the earth’s knowing,
severs and joins at the same instant,
runs inconspicuously through modest households,
creating wry humour – whole families
cat under one flag, shit under another,
humming a different national tune.
You lie down on the fateful line
under a livid moon. You
and your desire and the border are now one.
You raise the universal flag
of flaglessness. Amidst bird anthems
dawn explodes in a lusty salute.
Published in the Streets of Dhaka, published by University Press Limited. Reprinted with permission. An enlarged edition of the book will be launched at this year’s Dhaka Lit Fest.]
Kaiser Haq is Bangladesh’s biggest English language poet. His poetry collections include Pariah and Other Poems (Bengal Lights Books 2013), Starting Lines (Dhaka 1978), A Little Ado (Dhaka 1978) and A Happy Farewell (Dhaka: UPL 1994). He has edited an anthology, Contemporary Indian Poetry (Ohio State University Press 1990) and his translations include a novel by Rabindranath Tagore, Quartet (Heinemann Asian Writers Series, 1993); a novel by Nasreen Jahan, The Woman Who Flew (Penguin India); the poetry collections: Published in the Streets of Dhaka: collected poems (UPL, Dhaka); Combien de Bouddhas, a bilingual poetry selection with French translators by Olivier Litvine (Editions Caracteres, Paris) and the retold Bengali epic: The Triumph of the Snake Goddess (Harvard University Press).