I wasn’t born without complaints.
I announced with piercing shrieks
the ﬁrst fault of this earth’s seasonal wheel.
I’ve displayed on my skin
the pestilence and possibilities of all tinned milk.
And in this way I’ve learned
to identify time through my complaints.
Milestones identify and divide the road,
the moisture-rich air is measured
into brilliant balloons.
In the geography books, all the bodies
of water push this vast earth
into one-third of its expanse.
People are known by their eccentricities.
Here, without hunger, there are no gaping mouths,
no forest without thorny trees.
Without the sweat of slaves there’s no society,
without huge stones no rushing stream
could take its rippling turns,
without the launching of missiles there is no war.
And I know—
without the burning of neglect
love cannot be measured.
The wayward embrace reveals
renunciation’s all-absorbing root.
Rage exhausts itself in a cascade of sweat,
touch comes to climax in a sudden blow,
and in the gigantic build-up
of starvation on a massive scale
Ethiopia is announced to the world.
So I want to leave my mark
on every Namibia,
on 1971, through my complaints in the spring,
by piercing everyone with the arrows of my voice.
[Translated by Manzoorul Islam]
[Note: Spring (the original poem names the spring month of Phalgun, (Phālgun, mid-February to midMarch) was the season of the Language Movement of 1952, when Bengali students in Dhaka died in a demonstration protesting the imposition of Urdu as the national language of Pakistan. This protest movement culminated in the bloody Liberation War of 1971, when Bengali-speaking East Pakistan declared and won its independence from Pakistan as the nation of Bangladesh.]
© Shamim Azad