Translated from Bengali by Arunava Sinha
I go up to the river, pause,
And try to fathom where
the heart of the Monongahela lies.
It flows differently by day and by night,
Just as your own lover grows beauteous
in the season of love.
Foreign rivers don't reveal much on their faces.
If I can’t read your face,
Then who can?
I have seen more illness,
I have seen more blood,
Than I have seen people's faces.
It's raining on the roof of the house next door.
I remember my own country –
My land is like a green, green tree.
Adjacent to silence, the rain sometimes
shows how perfectly sound modulates itself.
I wish I had a guitar. Even if I
don't know how to play it,
I could pluck its strings so sweet sometimes.
In my life in exile
the way I say 'goodbye' with love for people
Is not the way I have ever said it before.
I do not know if we'll meet again
The sense of being rejected is so cruel
I know it too well.
So when we meet,
I will accept you like
a gift I have desired, hold you
like a warm mountain spring.
For now, goodbye, my friend.
The exiled person suffers the most disgraceful catastrophe of human civilization, but I have had to accept it just to survive. When I sought security from Bangladeshi police after my name was published on the hit-list of extremist group, I was instead threatened with arrest. On April 1, 2016, I was finally forced to leave my own country, leaving behind my sister and my aged parents. My guilt eats away at me even today, for this was a selfish escape. It has led me to experience a sense of psychological exile as well. More than 50 writers from Bangladesh have left the country since 2013. Not everyone secured a two-year term as full-time ICORN writer-in-residence at the City of Asylum, as I did. Meanwhile, terrible things were taking place every day back home, while I spent sleepless nights, suffering the pain. Still there remain agonies that I cannot write about in my journal, in my fiction, in my political columns, agonies that remain unexpressed. These have been captured here in the form of poetry.
Arunava Sinha is a noted Indian translator of Bengali literature. He was born and raised in Kolkata. He won the Crossword translation award, the Muse India translation award. He has also been shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. Sinha is currently based in New Delhi.
Photography accompanying this piece is by Javier Rodríguez Corpa