By Zafir Setu
Translated from Bengali by Mohammad Shafiqul Islam
When we stood by the bank of the Indus
it was noon,
a herd of sheep went past.
We cuddled them
offering some cheap fruits,
and then entered
the secret treasure of the Indus—
the people of the valley call it love.
I said: the Indus, Let me wake up
beside your midriff.
The Indus turned and smiled
I don’t let in a stranger,
I embrace a lover!
Kissing on its thighs
See I’m your first love!
Is Indus a river?
To me it seems a hustler.
Whenever I touched its secret body
I felt warmth of a mother’s womb.
Like many others I was born
from a light warm womb of the Indus
having the taste of life too.
A basrai rose called me
to get close to it and said—
see my skin colour,
in your country, you won’t find anyone like me!
Know that they buried me in a mass grave
but I’ve come right back!
In the beginning they were greedy
for our land,
then they thought they had rights
to our beautiful and tall girls!
Since then our girls are insecure
even in their own homes.
Zafir Setu, Associate Professor of Bengali literature at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Sylhet, Bangladesh, is a poet and fiction writer. He has authored more than twenty books of poetry, short story, novel, and essay. Blood Everywhere, originally Tinvag Rokto, is his recent poetry collection.
Mohammad Shafiqul Islam, poetry editor of Reckoning, is the author of two poetry collections, most recently Inner State (Daily Star Books, 2020), and the translator of Humayun Ahmed: Selected Short Stories and Aphorisms of Humayun Azad. His poetry and translations have appeared in Journal of Postcolonial Writing, Poem: International English Language Quarterly, Critical Survey, Massachusetts Review, Reckoning, Dibur, Lunch Ticket, and elsewhere. Currently he is at work on his third collection of poetry and a few translation projects. He teaches English at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Sylhet, Bangladesh.
Photography by Michael Demanti