Two Poems by Kaiser Haq

Liking It

It’s the easiest thing to say
In the grey light of thinning hair:
I liked the world the way it was–
If only it had held steady
Time would be unchanging bliss!

What is it you so fondly remember
Amidst the glitches in recollection?
An album of snapshots,
Some video clips at best.
The mood that binds them together
Like an invisible rubber band
Comes out of a pocket you’re wearing out now.

Maybe you can see
Clearer than your fast-fading fate line
An arched gate confettied with creepers
Golden green in early morning light,
Maybe your olfactories thrill
At the musky odor of blossoms
On a long-dead mango tree.

Or a remembered tale may set you
Dream-walking down village tracks
After a hurricane lantern swinging
Beneath a bullock cart’s creaking chassis
Like a luminous pineapple…or scrotum.

But don’t forget:
Calm cannot be retroactive.
The willed insouciance of youth
Crumpled before manic urgencies.
Why look back on such routine tussles?
From the bottom of the well
One can only look up.

Not that a benign gaze answers:
The twinkling could be tinsel
And lights no superior tomorrow.
Better just carve a squiggle
On softening grey timber
At amber-grey dusk
And hum under your breath:
I like it the way it is.

Poor Man Eating

Were I a painter
I am sure
My signature theme would be
The title of this poem.

The sun races to the zenith,
Imperious as an oriental autocrat.
The poor man crouches
In imitation Tommy Hilfiger rags
In the dwindling shade
Of a denuded tree.

His hands cradle
A bowl of fired earth–
It could be an Ouija board
To conjure up goodies,
Courtesy of the weak of conscience.

And when they come,
How he falls to it!
Eyes focused in mystic concentration,
Left arm protectively around
The pile of comestibles,
As right hand shovels them
Into an eager mouth.

I would paint the scene
Over and over
In luscious oil:
The painted proliferation
Might work magic,
Converting seeming impossibility
Into palpable reality:

All the world’s poor
Men and women
Gathered as if on the mythic day
Of final reckoning,
On this lowly earth,
Devouring earthly fare:
O the gods would come down
To bless and share!

Kaiser Haq is professor of English at Dhaka University. His Published in the Streets of Dhaka, Collected Poems 1966-2006 is available in city bookstores.


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