Jibanananda Das

Banalata Sen

Long I have been a wanderer of this world,
Many a night,
My route lay across the sea of Ceylon somewhat winding to
The seas of Malaya.
I was in the dim world of Bimbisar and Asok, and further off
In the mistiness of Vidarbha.
At moments when life was too much a sea of sounds,
I had Banalata Sen of Natore and her wisdom.

I remember her hair dark as night at Vidisha,
Her face an image of Sravasti as the pilot,
Undone in the blue milieu of the sea,
Never twice saw the earth of grass before him,
I have seen her, Banalata Sen of Natore.

When day is done, no fall somewhere but of dews
Dips into the dusk; the smell of the sun is gone
off the Kestrel's wings. Light is your wit now,
Fanning fireflies that pitch the wide things around.
For Banalata Sen of Natore.

Translation: The Poet

A DAY EI GHT YEARS AGO
It was heard
They took him to the morgue.
Last night in the February dark
When the crescent moon, five days toward full, had set

He'd had the urge to die.

A wife had lain beside him-a child, too.
There had been love, hope, in the moonlight.
Then what ghost did he see? why was his sleep
disturbed?
Or maybe he hadn't slept for days. Now, Iying in the
morgue, he

sleeps.
He had sought this sleep perhaps.
Like a plague rat, maw smeared with frothy blood, neck
slack
In the bosom of some dingy cranny, now he sleeps.
Never again will he wake.

"Never again will you wake

Never again will you know
The unremitting, unrelenting grievous
Pain of waking."
As though some stillness stretc hed its camel's neck
Through his window
And said these words to him
When the moon had sunk into strange darkness.


But the owl is awake,
And the decrepit, putrefying frog begs a few moments
more
Among anticipated warm affec tions-beckoned by
another dawn.
I sense all around me the unforgiving opposition
of my mosquito net, invisible in the swarming dark.

The mosquito stays awake in his blackened monastery, in
love with
life's flow.

Flies alight on blood and filth, then fly again to sunlight.
How many times have I watc hed the play of winged
insects on waves

of golden sunshine.

An intimate sky it would seem-some pervasive life force
Controls their hearts.
The grasshopper's constant twitching, caught in the
mischievous
child's grasp,
Fights death.
Yet in that foremost darkness after moonset, you, a coil of
rope in

hand,
Had gone alone to the aswattha tree,
Knowing that the grasshopper's life, or the doyel bird's,
never meets
with
That of man.

The aswattha limb,
Did it not protest? Did not fireflies in cordial throngs

Appear before you?
Did not the blind and palsied owl come and
Say to you: "old lady moon has sunk in the flood, has
she?
Marvelous!
Let's now catch a mouse or two!"
Did not the owl screech out that raucous news?


This taste of life-the scent of ripe grain in an autumn
afternoon-
You could not tolerate.
In the morgue, is your heart at ease
In the morgue, in that suffoc ating stillness
Like a flattened rat with blood-smeared lips.


Listen,
However, to this dead man's tale. He lacked
Not love of woman,
Nor did married life's expectations
Go unfulfilled.
From time's churnings emerged a wife
And honey, the mind's honey
She let him know.

Never in this life did he shiver
In the cold of hunger's draining pain.
And so,
In that morgue,
Flat out he lies upon a table.
I know, yet I know,
A woman's heart-love-a child-a home-these are not
everything,

Not wealth nor fame nor creature comforts-
There is some other perilous wonder
That frolics
In our very blood.
It exhausts us-
Exhausts, exhausts us.
That exhaustion is not present
In the morgue.

And so
In that morgue
Flat out he lies upon a table.
But every night I look and see, yes,
A blind and palsied owl come sit upon the aswattha
branc h
Blink her eyes and say: "old lady moon has sunk in the
flood, has she?

Marvelous !
Let's now catch a mouse or two!"

Oh profound grandmother, is today still so
marvelous?
I too, like you, shall grow old-shall cast old lady moon
across the
flood, into the whirlpool.

Then we two together shall empty life's full store.
Translation: The Poet

Jibanananda Das

Naked lonely hand


Darkness once again thickens throughout the sky:
This darkness, like light's mysterious sister.
She who has loved me always,
Whose face I have yet to see,
Like that woman
Is this darkness, deepening, closing in upon a February sky.

A certain vanished city comes to mind,
In my heart wake outlines of some gray palace in that city.

on shores of the Indian ocean
or the Mediterranean
or the banks of the Sea of Tyre,
Not today, but once there was a city,
And a palace-
A palace lavishly furnished:
Persian carpets, Kashmiri shawls, flawless pearls and coral from waters round Bahrain.
My lost heart, dead eyes, faded dream desires
And you, woman-
All these once filled that world.

There was orange sunlight,
Cockatoos and pigeons,
Dense, shady mahogany foliage.
There was orange sunlight,
Much orange-colored sunlight,
And you were there.
For how many hundreds of centuries I have not seen the beauty of your face,
Have not searched.
The February darkness brings with it this tale of a seashore,
Sorrowful lines of fantasy domes and arches,
Fragrance of invisible pears,
Countless deer and lion parchments, graying,
Stained glass rainbows rippling over drapes-
A fleeting glow from
Room through anteroom to further inner room.
Momentary awe and wonder.

Sweat of ruddy sun, smeared on curtains, carpets,
Watermelon wine in red glasses!
Your naked lonely hand
Your naked lonely hand.

Translation: The Poet
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