RAIN, RAIN | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 10, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:59 AM, June 10, 2017

RAIN, RAIN

Translated by Kaiser Haq

Sudden panic sends colorful homebound crowds –

Even drowsy ones – scuttling

Like scared red roaches every which way

As if someone in cold forbidding tones,

Tolling familiar bells,

Had come to warn of imminent plague,

Emptying homes and city squares

And then

A flying harpoon of lightning rips through

The rounded whale's belly of the sky.

Deafening thunder and hail and rain

As if circular saws had roared into ceaseless motion

While a million lathes let out a whine of torment.

Dusk brings on electric storms –

Nervy, peevish – and more 

Clouds and water and wind –

With a chromatic scream 

Like a peacock's rainbow tail –

How imperiled our dwellings –

Doors and windows desperate to take wing –

The old house heaving like a tyrannosaur –

Flash floods sweeping through crowded neighborhoods

And gleaming, abandoned avenues

And swirling round the city's knees.

Through dusk rent by apocalyptic gusts –

As if the wind were Israfel's OM! –

Rain falls aslant on parked cars –

Passengers sit in silence, heads bowed

In anxiety and apprehension, and startled,

Look up to see

Only water,

Swift and fierce,

Flowing ceaselessly

And willy-nilly hear

The sound of lamentation

Resounding in their own hearts

And in the weird, vagrant monsoon's sterile dithyramb.

Tonight in this downpour, on city thoroughfares

Tramp and drifter, homeless youth and lifelong beggar,

Spiv, thief and the half-crazed

Come into their own,

Theirs is the kingdom in the rain tonight.

The revenue collectors

Always to be seen carefully counting

Money they pocket every day

Have fled in terror.

They burst into lusty song – dark

Festival hall and drunken placard flapping on the wall,

Twisted telephone pole at whose tip swings

An old dented signboard blown thither by a gust

While the city's countless shutters keep time

With a relentless clatter,

For the constable on the beat,

The sentry and the taxman

Have all fled in terror.

And these too – the wise and the wealthy

And all their sidekicks and sycophants –

They too have slipped away unnoticed –

The torrent has washed away all footprints

And will carry only a few miserable mementos

As it rushes, merry as a civic procession, 

Towards cascading town drains:

A cigarette tin floats by with a sound like tambourines,

And broken glass, torn wire, envelopes,

Blue air letters, yellow laundry slips,

Doctors' prescriptions, a white medicine box,

A broken button from a favorite shirt

And miscellaneous keepsakes 

From the varicolored days of civilized existence.

O Lord, amidst the lightning-lit deluge

In this dark city, barefoot and alone

In tattered pantaloons, inside 

A shirt billowing like a sail,

I am a shiny little ark –

In the lonely turmoil of my flesh-and-blood existence

Smolders Noah's restless, red-hot, wrathful soul

But not a single creature, man or beast,

Stirs in response, though scudding waters

Carry the sound of breathing,

The wind wafts anguished cries –

Exalted by what ardor, towards 

Which city shall I drift,

Lured by these seductive waters? 

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