Four poems of NILIM KUMAR, translated from the Assamese by Nabina Das

In Your Smoke-hued Room

Even now in your smoke-hued room
you wait for me. You don't follow the books piled
around you. You like the mist of this season of chill
and winter is engulfing you.
My old shadow will stumble down you keep hoping and so,
soaked in tears you wait many moonlit nights at the turn of the alley
Once you had searched for my name in the office room
of the morgue
You're so utterly eager to hear the knocking sound
gazing on at your door
Looking to capture the tremulous tap from my loneliest finger made white
and lean by the winter's grace.

(Original poem: Dhuwa boroniya tumar kothalit)

Just Pause a Little

Just pause a little on the road once
That pen you're searching for
is it in your pocket with which you never write!
You bag is holding your hand to go grocery shopping
it's conversing with the vegetables and the dead fish
like a baby ghost, this shopping bag of yours
Just stop a few seconds just in case
you chest has burst out all perforated, or if
your home is covered with cobwebs, if you cannot
reach up to them with your dusting broom
what if the wind has never broken your windows
what if you never made holes in the roof for the rain to fall
what if you have never felt lonely
If you have never ever felt alone, there's nothing
I can tell you

(Original: Ebaar thomoki ruwasun)

The House Napping on a Sleeping Pill

The calling bell is tired, can't wake up the house
the newspaper lying on the verandah is jostling with the morning
the resident of the house takes the house with him to wherever he goes
wherever the house lives he too lives
the house and the man are actually one
the house is his, he is of the house
Earlier this house resounded with music and songs till late night
after the music and singing the house slept in deep content
Now there's no music and singing there. Slowly, as the man
has lost his sleep, the house too has became an insomniac
The man staggered inside the home and in the same manner
he made the house take a jittery nap. After the house slept
the man slept, for both have the same disease
Well now we can't tell whether the man is inside
the house or not. The house is locked from inside
The man and the house are perhaps in deep slumber.

But suddenly
the man wakes up hearing the scream of the calling bell
He comes and tells the bell -- shhhhh
The house has taken a sleeping pill, please don't disturb the house.

(Original: Tuponir bori khai ghortu xuise)

Under the Smile of an Evening

I'm walking under the smile of an evening
This very moment I want to become an old man,
bending on my stick I want to walk down the footpath
in slow cautious steps. Pinning down my youth and my middle age
with a crooked smile and my twisted eyebrows I wish to walk around this chaotic noisy city
with the steps of a man brimming with years of experience
I wish to touch the kisses and the speckles of smiles on the park benches with
my trembling old age hands

I want to be overwhelmed by the beauty of the crisscross lines on
my own deep face
The familiar death song from the scarlet sparkling spill when the root
of my blood is scratched, the despair and howl of the cities I lived
my reading desk and the yawn of the piles of books,
the insomnia of my bedroom
the breeze from the tresses of my beloved woman, grass and forests, our words
that we speak that hang like soot and the picture of the corpses of my desires
I want to see them all once like a dream

My sorrow tree's shadow receding into the sunset hour
right this moment like a miracle that's taking place
I feel like turning into an old man
Although I do not wish to spend those days of the future
the eagerness of mine to become an old man is unbound.

(Original: Eta godhulir hanhir tolere)

NILIM KUMAR is an Assamese poet who has published 17 collections of poems, three novels, and a book of essay. Winner of several awards, his poems have been translated into French, English, Hindi, Nepalese, Gujarati, Panjabi, Urdu, Marathi, and Odiya.

NABINA DAS is a poet and writer based in Hyderabad. Winner of Commonwealth Writers correspondent award, Charles Wallace writing fellowship, Sangam House fiction fellowship, Wesleyan Writers Conference fiction fellowship, and New York Summer Writers Institute fellowship, Nabina has four books.