by Shamsur Rahman
This city holds out a wizened hands to the tourist,
wears a patched kurta, limps barefoot,
gambles on horses, quaffs palm beer by the pitcher,
squats with splayed legs, jokes, picks lice
from its soul, shakes off bed-bugs,
This city is a cut-purse, scoots at the sight
of a policeman, looks about with eyes like the flaming moon.
This city raves deliriously, teases with riddles,
bursts into lusty song, sheds the sweat
of its brow on its feet in tireless factories,
dreams at times of cradles,
ogles the pretty girl standing quietly on the verandah.
In scorching April or monsoon-drenched June
this city puts its mad shoulder to the wheels
of pushcarts, makes for the brothel at nightfall,
burning with desire to celebrate the flesh,
This city is syphilitic, it tosses and turns
between the white walls of a hospital ward,
This city is a suppliant at the pir's doorstep,
wears charms and talismans
on its arms, round its neck,
Day and night this city vomits blood,
never tires of funeral processions,
This city tears its hair in frenzy, dashes its head
on the walls of dark prison cells,
This city rolls in the dust, knowing hunger
as life's solitary truth,
This city crowds into political rallies,
its heart tattooed with posters.
becomes an El Greco reaching for lofty azure,
This city daily wrestles with the wolf with many faces.
Shamsur Rahman is one of the leading poets of Bangladesh
(Translated by Kaiser Haq).