When Species Are Becoming Extinct in the Wild
Each of this planet’s daily spins on its axis matters for those
who face the trauma of being out there without the living green.
On the outskirts of my hometown there was a knoll mythically formed
of clay shaken off spades – green grass and a few trees here and there
like some haphazard punctuation marks.
Because I loved symphonies of rustling trees on a breezy afternoon,
my father and I used to go there to plant trees on its eroding slopes
despite the fears that goats and cows could eat them up.
But one rainy day a couple of decades later, I saw that knoll was gone,
flattened, as if nothing had existed in there before.
I was devastated. I read on the Internet: clouded leopards used to roam free
in my part of the Garo Hills; now extinct in the wild but part of the local myth.
And now the country’s last remaining female clouded leopard lives
without a male partner in a safari park cage.
My mother told me about wild muntjacs in our deciduous forest.
In a poem last year, I mentioned Bengal foxes in reference to the sunshower
in which they get married to each other, according to a Bengali nursery rhyme.
I didn’t know this Bengal fox is already locally extinct in the wild.
When was the last time I saw wild boar poop among clumps of muli-bamboos?
I don’t remember it. Orange-bellied Himalayan squirrels, too –
a view we see increasingly less like the rarity of Gangetic dolphins
and gharials these days. Fishing cats are disappearing from our wetlands.
White-rumped vultures the country’s famed scavengers are bordering on extinction.
At sunset on the harvested crop-fields on the way home from the hills,
I realized that stupidity has no color, and we have it down to an art.
Farmhouse at Sixty Crabs
Farming is a profession of hope. – Brian Brett
My father is retired but at Sixty Crabs, though I’m sure
he’s seen more crabs in wet-fields around his farm,
a new life as cattleman or poultryman takes root.
On waking, he loves to see another day dawns
on the tail of purring darkness chased away
by light’s incessant growls. As a connoisseur,
he listens to milch cows mooing, goats bleating,
broilers and layers clucking, ducks quacking;
rain pattering on the corrugated tin roof,
white-breasted waterhens from waterlogged trees,
the swish of winter winds through elephant grass,
they all create the best musical chords for him.
He had no life of his own, all his colors faded out
over the years of meeting others’ demands.
He smells freedom among these soulmates.
His children seem to be like ancient copper coins:
valued for the memories of their dazzling arrivals
but of no use for any of his present needs.
He’s sick and tired of giving everyone his almost
fanatical riffs on values evaporating like dew.
Nobody’s perfect, so he now gives up on it.
When he’s stressed out and so eager to break
free out of his old miseries’ sucking tentacles,
not his family, only these animals make sense to him.
The seasons change. Stepping outside at dawn,
he loves the pleasantness of the air about his farm,
and watching them grow plump fills his heart.
All his hurts – dark blemishes in his mind –
are being erased clean and white as his cows’ milk.
He loves the silver of fish splashing on his pond.
A Potted Bluebellvine
On my balcony there is a potted bluebellvine
with its crowded, overgrown branches
– like the crop of someone’s thick curly hair –
peeping out for more sunlight from the grille
around which the whole of its body firmly twisted.
Its blue flowers the shape of female genitals
against its small green leaves often remind me
of the loneliness of men without women.
I remember my wife brought it home one evening
when it was just a tiny plant that needed care.
My kids, especially my little daughter, had
lots of photos with it at different stages of its life.
One day we had to go somewhere else for weeks,
but we didn’t know how to keep it watered
during our absence. My wife prayed so that
it’d somehow be thrown a lifeline the way she does
for every sick family member. Once back home
we got surprised: it had survived these weeks
almost without water – except an evening shower
my neighbor informed me of over the phone –
but not without a cost: some of its branches
have become dry sticks with a few remaining leaves
crispy like potato crackers. It might have
thought of every possible way to stay alive
but sooner or later it had to give up and stop
the supply of rainwater to some of its branches.
It did because it had to survive. Bluebellvine,
we are proud of how you survived this austerity!
In my hometown, there’s still a big market area
with a thin road slightly snaking through it
as if it meticulously threaded a tarnished needle.
On both sides of the road studded with tin sheds,
vendors sit with their bamboo-made wicker baskets;
and there are also rickshaw vans either pushed
or pedaled. People from all walks of life go
there for meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, leafy greens,
milk, and for groceries as well. In my childhood,
whenever I needed money for either chocolate,
ice-cream, or peanuts, I went shopping there
because I kept the remaining money for myself.
At dawn when fog still enveloped my hometown,
I drowsily dragged my feet – for my little greed –
to buy meat, tengara fish, Bengal loach my favorite,
dry fish wrapped in leaves of white turmeric
that grew profusely in all our neighboring bushes,
balls of sugarcane jaggery, banana florets in bracts,
and put them all into the jute bag my father
and I might have used for years. How fast I am
forgetting that jute was once the country’s cash crop!
Now I shop in a superstore lit by fluorescent tubes
and fitted with security cameras, sometimes
with my daughter on the seat of a grocery cart,
and everything’s put into plastic bags that keep
chocking all life in earth and water. Yes, I’ve
become a perfect citizen of this deranged world!
In the Jungles
On reading Kenneth Anderson
Imagine yourself a big game hunter on a machan,
waiting over the kill of a man-eating tiger
– the scourge of areas bordering a jungle –
unmoved but looking up at stars as if puffed rice
against the dark. You are not hard of hearing
nor poor of sight but profusely perspiring over
your reflexes not as lightning-fast as a hooded snake.
Don’t forget all of what you are depends on defeating
a man-eater’s cunningness with yours. Imagine
mud glued to your shoe heels in the scorching sun
and damp trousers sticking like your second skin
after a slip on the sludge. At the cow-dust
hour, you see grazing cattle return home from the lush
vegetation on the jungle’s fringe. The villagers’
lifeline is crops and cattle that put a heavy toll
on wild herbivores. Conflicts with carnivores
go out of control; then arrive the hunters –
now a politically incorrect species for environuts.
Imagine it’s your first jungle night, a very scary
fog-painted night at that. You might have
more than accepted jungle bushes to be alert for –
under which man-eaters crouch and from which
they unnervingly spring. Returning through bushes,
across nullahs and over boulders wouldn’t be easy.
So by a lake, build a fire to stay secure.
After that, enjoy fireflies with birds and bees
as the background music amid ever-increasing fears.
In the Hills
On top of a hill, I vacation in a bamboo
house. A little stream snakes down
through the valley that comes alive
with birds’ twittering at dawn. And sunlight
on its murmuring water –
a broken mirror pieced together by air.
Yesterday I saw a dead tree flowered
with birds of prey ready to swoop down
on rats and snakes nearby. In afternoons
words from half-remembered poems
touch down like rain-washed winds;
I remain grateful for I had enough
of bitterness and betrayals in my old city.
I would rather romance the mossed crags
out there than lust for gorgeous ladies
with breasts taped for plunging neckline
gowns with side-slits and hair
tousled in gentle waves on shoulders.
When I feel like breathing in the cool
night air, I look out from the overhanging
balcony and at times watch out
in the vegetation for movements
– more curiously under the moonlit sky –
of animals or of a hill-born couple madly
in love without letting their clan-heads
know of it. All that I want is peace
no less mollifying than a moonglade.
If like a Romantic, I could remain here forever!
Sofiul Azam has three published poetry collections Impasse (2003), In Love with a Gorgon (2010), Safe under Water (2014) and edited Short Stories of Selim Morshed (2009). His work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Pirene’s Fountain, North Dakota Quarterly, The Ibis Head Review, The Ghazal Page, Cholla Needles, Poetry Salzburg Review, Orbis, The Cannon’s Mouth, Postcolonial Text, and elsewhere. Some poems are anthologized in Two Thirds North, fourW: New Writing 28, Journeys, Caught in the Net among others. His fourth poetry collection Persecution is forthcoming,and he is working on This Time, Every Time and Days in the Forested Hills. He currently teaches English at World University of Bangladesh, having taught it before at other universities.