Flashback | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 28, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 06:16 PM, October 29, 2017

Poetry

Flashback

The idea of this poem came to Shahidul in 2012, soon after his Sussex MA dissertation on Modernism, where Eliot was one of his objects where he analysed, among other works, T S Eliot’s Wasteland.

The DS lit and reviews team would like to remind all readers that the Wasteland was first published in October 22; and so it is an anniversary tribute of sorts.

Shahidul Islam Chowdhury is an Associate Professor at East Delta University, Chittagong.

“Honi soit qui mal y pense.” -- Edward III

I

Delta is the fertile land, breeding

Saligia in the burning month, mixing

Deceit and love-dust, stirring

Piercing passion with glycerin tears.

Night keeps us warm, flooding

Earth in pale desire, covering

Bottomless pits with coloured cobwebs.

We believe in change that has

Dull roots anchored in the stony rubbish

Where rattling bones rule.

You promise me a handful of fear

Where there is no fear

You promise me forgetful rain and

I forget what I am, 

I am not what I am, and emerge

In your shadow, out of

Genetically modified seed.

What is that change that

Comes like lightning with a voice

Of thunder that promises

Death in Sumeria?

What change? What?

I am unwanted, yet exist

To your vexation. You lullaby me

To perpetual sleep with

Unbearable lightness of pain,

Which you call peace.

The Wall Street merchant walks along

The silk road to sell himself

And to buy himself, keeping

A bagful of bubbles on his left shoulder

And a bagful of nukes on his right.

Prospero steps on the dry stone

To interpret my nightmare as bliss.

II

Madame Scylla lost her

Father dear

In the sinkhole of greed,

“What dost thou desirest?” cried he

Before falling down.

Her semi-bearded clairvoyant twin beats

The unfinished voice.

Madame Scylla lost her

Hubby dear

In the sinkhole of greed,

“What do you want?” cried he

Before falling down.

The lady of situations visits

Her clairvoyant twin

The Prince

At rhythmic beat

To fulfil the unfinished voices.

Seven albatrosses are hovering

Over the half-dead ocean;

They are not flying in the air.

She stands there alone

With a parasol to protect herself

From the burning fire.

One must be so deceptive these days.

III

I went to Coronation Street for

The break of dawn

Belinda sitting next to me

Probably sharing pieces of her mind

With people she thinks her friends

Or friends' friends, and probably

Letting her smoky coffee

Become dead cold.

I know she is unwell this week

So go to Eglantine's flat to

Fall flat on her. Belinda thinks

I go out for  

A long day's journey into night.

Indeed I do, later, in rat's alley

Where the self-conscious men lose their mind.

It is better to have no bond

You don't have to worry about breaking it

Or watering it.

My modest proposal is: children are burden;

Why not be done with them?

Sweet Nile, run softly

Till I absorb your broken song.

Sweet Ganges, run softly

Till I purify you to purify me.

Sweet Thames, run softly

Till I muse upon my shadow upon you.

Unreal city,

Under whose brown fog rises

Forgetful memory and desire

She forgot to wish me

Happy Birthday

Because she was too preoccupied

To go to JFK

At the violet hour. 

Her days are numbered.

She is burning. 

I am burning.

IV

Madame Nadiya is communal because 

She wears a hijab.

Monsieur Tony is secular even though 

He wears a turban.

Who is the coloured person that walks around?

The white man is burdened: 

He denies that he is coloured.

The black man is blessed:

He cannot be white.

Gentile or Jew, you, who turn the wheel

Without looking to windward,

Consider Abraham, who was once more handsome

And taller than you.

Hurry up please it's time

You told me to be aware of my brothers and sisters

Monstrous as they are, all drowning;

You told me to go to the moon to buy a flat

In Grenfell Tower

You told me to go to Mars to colonize it

Otherwise there would stand the empty chapel

As it stands now always sans sporadic Sundays.

My friend, it is a moment's surrender.

But what have we given up?

If I go to the moon or Mars or our Andromeda

And carry the haunted soul that

Rapes me, what good can it offer

Except dry bones in our empty rooms?

V

Sand valley,

Under whose brown fog of a Spring Dawn

A crowd flowed across the border.

I could not imagine death had undone 

So many victims of identity.

Green valley,

Under whose brown fog of a Monsoon Dusk

A crowd flowed across the border.

I could not imagine death had undone 

So many victims of identity.

Who is the third who hides always beside you?

When I count, there are only two of you,

But when I look deep the dark labyrinth

There is always another working behind you

Who always mediates the war deeper between the two.

Who is that in the middle of the two?

Unreal region,

Under whose brown fog of a Winter Noon

Rape is experimented on

Pre-Helen up to post-Hecuba

Beside the bleak Taj

Cow slaughter precedes manslaughter

International lie justifies

Ethnic cleansing and genocide 

(They differ from each other

As syllable from sound)

In Troy, Bosnia, Myanmar;

White House at Downing Street

Entertains Agamemnon with 

The delectable Arab manakeesh

In the plains of Mesopotamia

While others lick saliva

For other secretive dishes;

The Great Wall beside Red Square 

Entertains Madame Scylla with

The luscious Rohingya curry

In the plains of the Himalayas

While others lick saliva

For other secretive dishes.

I come to save, and not destroy:

North and North 

Trumpet the game of thrones

Because they are saviours.

East and West and South

Await the whirlwind's paradox.

To be or not to be that is the question.

When drones and rockets

Shower a handful of death 

Upon the wedding guests

And the Fathers of Men,

When shelters are destroyed 

To legitimate the illegitimates,

When vans ride humans and

Cars and bombs join

Hand in hand to promote

Blood on the dance floor,

UNOIC offers

Passivity, patience, and sanction

To appease Grendel

Because Beowulf is no more.

Grendel home and abroad accuses them

For creating havoc and insecurity

And promoting it all around.

He confirms who is with him 

And who is against him;

There is no purgatory.

Power makes a man perfect.

Prey as they are, they pray

To Grendel's mother without knowing that

Some animals are more equal than others.

They look from Grendel to his mother,

From his mother to Grendel, 

But fail to realize which is which.

Et tu, madame?

I see things falling apart – 

Humanity, morality, 

Society, individuality

Crack and reform and burst in the violet air

London 

Paris 

Washington

Moscow 

Beijing 

New Delhi

MOSSAD 

CIA 

FSB

MI6

RAW 

MSS

Moriarty

Irreal.

VI

Eyes cannot hear, ears cannot see

Hand fails to taste, tongue fails to conceive

Heart fails to report my dream.

Unrealized disgrace lies the head

That wears the crown.

Da is speechless,

History is blind,

Civilization is exhausted,

Shantih is dead.

The violet sky waits for me with stretched hands.

The dead-end is where I have shored

Against my ruins.

Astyanax by any other name

Would still be Astyanax.

The wheels of the nations go

Round and round

All through the life

Sans beginning, sans end, sans motion.

Poor Tiresias lost vision twice

Now cannot see 

The fond pageant of the mortals

Nor can see the future

Because there is none.

Life is a tale told by an idiot

Whose name is Nobody.

I am Nobody. Are you Nobody, too?

Let's count the grass under our boot-soles

Because we don't want to rage against the dying of the light,

Because we are Hamlet's siblings,

Because we meditate, like the Chorus,

On the murder within the house and beyond,

Because we want to be in chains everywhere,

Because we are the dead people society,

Because we count on the forgetful grass,

Which promises us digital peace.

Nothing to be done!---

Photo: T. S. Marin

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