The Breadcrumbs widget will appear here on the published site.
By Sofiul Azam
for Ngũgĩ wa Thiong
Perhaps I’ll come back like a salmon fish
to that same estuary again;
I may wish to see my newcomers swim on that old stream.
Or perhaps I’ll stay away like a statue hewn out of a huge rock,
far away from my grandparents’ mountain,
on another longitude, alone under another sky.
But the return doesn’t mean the return of my body,
something more, beyond five senses for sure.
Who knows if distance is just steam in a lid-locked pressure cooker?
As my body gets dry like a split bamboo this summer
the sound coming off it like cacophony on the air
I remember the old gossipy days. My mind was soft
like a bamboo shoot—is that only the past? Or is it
the ripe bamboo’s fond love for its memories still green?
I still remember that over my roots under my leaves,
a toad took shelter during the rains. A few days later,
a snake came to announce its rights and satisfied its hunger.
Necessity flicked its forked tongue and ate me, too.
The taste of crescent-shaped rice-dumplings on a winter morning,
the broth of a curry with swamp barbs and leaf amaranth,
a little spicy rice flour slightly fried with margosa leaves on a moonless night--
I’m wondering if all these memories have turned pale
under the stone of distance? Perhaps so.
Or perhaps I’ve lost all those memories, like marbles
lost in knee-deep mud from the knot of my lungi
while bathing in a large pond. But some fossils
of that time are still preserved in my mind’s museum.
Bathing in a canal, she got a tiny shrimp
entangled in her hair bound tight by a red ribbon.
From then on, I used to call her The Shrimp Girl.
Sitting on a land aisle between cornfields, she sang,
letting her goats graze on. I clasped her breasts
from behind her and said: These wood apples are soft.
She held her head low in shame. Who knows where she is now?
Her mind was soft like a sapodilla, and I’ve remained
the fruit-eating bat all my life, here and abroad.
Then I flapped my wings and flew to another language--
the country you can’t catch hold of in a net
of longitudes and latitudes. Then I forgot
the biological pull of the language I’d learned in my mother’s womb.
Some say I’ve lost the silver of Gangetic ailias,
as I swam in the other water, caught in weeds.
Of course, I talk about the other way around. Trust me:
One can’t be a different man with a different dress on.
You’ve just stopped before it, sadly never beyond it.