At eighteen, they say, there comes
a burst of energy;
he snaps his chains and goes out into the blue.
The corrugated tin of rage heats up,
illusory feelings throb in his ribs.
His snail-paced dynamic vanishes,
he gleams in the light of sun-infused noon.
Young men don't cry, they merely seethe within;
youth conceals his shame in small receptacles.
In looks and action, he is bright and hard,
in dimension and demeanor he's capable,
Have all those flowers vanished,
are they only incarnations from old myths?
I haven't seen such brilliance for so long
though I've searched for it every spring
and summer dawn.
With some hidden signal, the tree withers,
and always in dreams I grow destitute.
In a land depleted by a great feast of corpses
does anyone survive beyond eighteen?
Translated from the Bangla by Carolyne Wright with Syed Manzoorul Islam and the author.
Shamim Azad was born in Bangladesh and has worked as a journalist for Bangladesh's largest weekly magazine, Sāptāhik Bichitra. From 1981 until 1990 she taught at Dhaka College. In 1990, she moved to England to teach for the London Education Authority. Since 2002, she has worked in London as a poet and storyteller. Her residencies include Tower Hamlets Summer University, Sunderland City Library & Arts Centre, East Side Arts, Poetry Society, Magic Me, Half Moon Theatre and Apples & Snakes. She has written several plays and published over a dozen books including novels, collections of short stories, essays and poems in both English and Bangla.
In English translation by Carolyne Wright and Syed Manzoorul Islam, her poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, Boulevard, Hayden's Ferry Review, Indiana Review, Los Angeles Review, Modern Poetry in Translation, and in the anthology edited by Wright, Majestic Nights: Love Poems of Bengali Women (White Pine Press, 2008). In translation by Debjani Chatterji and Safuran Ara, her poetry has appeared in My Birth Was Not in Vain, The EmLit Project (European Minority Literature in Translation) and others.
Recipient of grants and fellowships from Witter Bynner Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Harvard's Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies and Wellesley College's Center for Research on Women, American poet and translator Carolyne Wright spent four years on Indo-U. S. Sub-commission and Fulbright Senior Research fellowships in Kolkata, India, and Dhaka, Bangladesh, collecting and translating the work of Bengali women poets and writers. Another published collection is The Game in Reverse: Poems of Taslima Nasrin (George Braziller). Wright has published five books and four chapbooks of poetry, a book of essays, and three bilingual (Spanish-English). Carolyne's own most recent book is This Dream the World: New & Selected Poems (Lost Horse), which received ten Pushcart Prize nominations.
Syed Manzoorul Islam was educated at Dhaka University and went to Canada on fellowships for further graduate study, receiving a Ph. D. in English Literature from Queens University in 1981. Later he taught at the English Department of Dhaka University for several years. A highly prolific essayist and critic, he was a spokesperson for the pro-democracy movement during the anti-Ershad political upheavals of late 1990, and served as a moral leader and example of moderation for the university community.