Lost Poets Series | Phalguni Ray (translated by Souradeep Roy)

  Artwork : Anil Karanjai, The Competition, 1968

nonchalant charminar

       ma, i can’t smile well-scrubbed twisted-smirks in your noble society anymore
in the godly dense ocean of kindness with krishna’s duffed up white teeth      with studious eyes of the devil      i can’t
anymore    in a ramakrishnian posture     use my wife according to the matriarchal customs
       substitute sugar for saccharine and dread diabetes no more   i can’t no more with my unhappy
organ do a devdas again in khalashitola on the registry day of a former fling.
       my liver is getting rancid by the day   my grandfather had cirrhosis   don’t understand
heredity    i drink alcohol  read poetry   my father for the sake of puja etc used to fast   venerable dadas in our para
swearing by dharma gently press ripe breasts of sisters-born-of-the-locality on holi
       on the day ma left for trips abroad many in your noble society had vodka   i will
nonchalantly    from your funeral pyre    light up a charminar    thinking of your death my eyes tear
up    then i don’t think of earthquakes by the banks or of floodwater   didn’t put my hand on the string of the petticoat of an unmarried lover and didn’t think of baishnab padavali ma, even i’ll die one day.
       at belur mandir on seeing foreign woman pray with her international python-bum veiled in a skirt
my limitless libido rose up   ma because your libido will be tied up to father’s memories even beyond death      i    this fucked up drunk am    
 envying you   carrying dirt of the humblest kind looking at my organ
i feel as if i’m an organism from another planet   now the rays of the setting sun is touching my face on a tangent
and after mixing the colour of the setting sun on their wings a flock of non-family-planning birds is going back towards bonolata sen’s
eyes peaceful as a nest – it’s time for them to warm the eggs –


a personal neon

i am completely talentless so i touch the tip of the nose with my tongue
to prove my talent
sometimes while walking in front of manik bandyopadyay’s house
i wonder – the same street through which manik bandyopadyay
walked, i worthless, phalguni roy, am walking, inside the second class
of a tram sometimes i wonder – was it this tram that had once
trampled upon jibanananda’s body –
i have been moving on in this way – in this way my earth sun stars have been moving
at that moment when my foetus was formed another death had fallen upon the solar family
a friend of mine sits in a bar and drinks alcohol from far-off regions of the world quite often –
one day he became very angry and called me a toddy-addicted
ganja-addicted fucker
i consider dronacharya a murderer
for snatching away eklavya’s thumb

বেক্তিগত নিয়ন

আমি পুরোপুরি প্রতিভাহীন তাই নাকে জিভ ঠেকিয়ে
প্রমাণ করি প্রতিভা
কখনও মানিক বন্দ্যোপাধ্যায়ের বাড়ির সাম্নে দিয়ে হাঁটতে
হাঁটতে ভাবি - একদিন মানিক বন্দ্যোপাধ্যায় যে-রাস্তা দিয়ে হেঁটেছিলেন
সে-রাস্তায় আমি, অপদার্থ, ফালগুনী রায় হেঁটে যাচ্ছি, কখনও ট্রামের
সেকেন্ড ক্লাসে উঠে ভাবি - এই ট্রামটাই কি জীবনানন্দের
শরীর থেঁতলে দিয়েছিল
এইভাবেই আমি চলেছি – চলেছে পৃথিবী সূর্য নক্ষত্র আমার
আমার ভ্রূণমুহূর্তে আরেক মৃত্যু নেমে এসেছিল সৌরসংসারে
আমার এক বন্ধু বারে বসে দূর-দেশের দামি মদ খায় প্রায়ই –
সে খুব রেগেমেগে শালা তাড়িখোর গাঁজাখোর বলেছিল
একদিন আমায়
একলব্যর বুড়ো আঙুল কেড়ে নেবার জন্যে
আমি দ্রোণাচার্যকে হত্যাকারী মনে করি –

manik bandyopadyay’s specs

your paddy ridden field in baishak is my soul’s stamp – not the heart’s
in the winter fog i exhale smoke - not a cigarette's
in bed bereft of a woman i masturbate early in the morning
in whose tummy will my child arrive
one for which i will provide two morsels of rice?
                        without a party flag i have been surviving     without
                        the love of a woman i have been surviving    in order to listen to
rabindranath’s songs  at twelve thirty in the afternoon sun i have been surviving
no i never wanted to be rabindranath never ever     i have never wanted to love
sumita never ever    had never wanted her body   have never wanted mita’s
body      had only wanted her love but nothing happened to me
but of course the khan army in bangladesh     the US mines from the coast of tonkin
and the CRPF hiding behind the sand bags in kolkata      have left
the china nixon treaty has been signed    white black America has sent
a jeep to the moon     some grains in bharat     some armymen in vietnam
and some athletes for the Olympics
                        hindu bengalis
                        have killed
                        hindu bengalis
                        in kolkata – then under
                                                lenin and
                                                gandhi’s statues
the wellwishers of shahid minar have called a public meeting – hence –
a lot of things have happened but i’ve still not got a job
                                                   and so haven’t got a wife
the prostitute’s pimp and the bride’s parents never let their women
in our hands if we don’t show them some money
but will we all keep our organs settled inside a loincloth
and become sanyasis?
tear up for martyrs and become ministers?
once on my way to vote i saw a hungry person die
in the voting line their name was called as a proxy    and their ration card
confiscated     my father died even after receiving good dietary
medication and even His ration was confiscated – i have finally seen
death makes no difference between the rich and the poor or between the bourgeois and the                                                                                                                                                                   communist                                                                                                                                                                    
                        yet some deaths are lighter than a bird
                        yet some deaths are heavier than the mountain
hai bharatbarsha! will my death be heavy or light
hai bharatbarsha! will i be a dead body or a martyr – or will i die the way buddhadev
died when he tried to find a reason behind death?
death – are you just extinction or are you a passport to reincarnation?
who will tell me where is my real path?
who has provided me with life inside my heart – who will tell me what price is my heart?
who will provide me with pen and paper to write poems?
if i’m sick who will provide me with dietary medication?
who will provide for my food if i’m hungry?
who’ll provide me with a woman if i long for love?
                        can the state provide for everything?
                        can communism make the last boy first?
                        can socialism make a bad poet into a good one?
yet the vedic song of praise songhocchodhong songbaddhong etc means
                        our paths become one
                        our languages become one
                        our thoughts become one . . . this higher communism
was constructed by indians four thousand years before marx was born
                        our meals become one
                        our clothes become one . . . magical magical
but if after listening to this someone gets up and says our wives become one then
i mean i mean i’ll run away because i cannot i cannot think of sex with a woman and
sucking up to the guru as one and the same thing
so even after sucking our mother’s milk we can’t ever think of sucking our mother’s flesh
but after sucking the milk out of the cow we've had the cow’s flesh.


Translator's Note : Manik bandyopadyay's specs" and "nonchalant charminar" have been translated from Phalguni Roy's poems published in Khudartho Sonkolon (Hungry Anthology) (Ed. Saileswar Ghosh; published by Dey's Publishing). "বেক্তিগত নিয়ন" has been translated from the online magazine of Bengali poetry Journey90s. I am thankful to Mantra Mukim and Sneha Chowdury for their comments on earlier drafts of the translations. 

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