'Each word is an angel': Six poems by Bhaben Barua

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'Each word is an angel': Six poems by Bhaben Barua

Six poems by Bhaben Barua, translated from Assamese by Dibyajyoti Sarma.

Translated from Assamese by Dibyajyoti Sarma

The Words

Each word is an angel. Have to
find each in smoky solitude, where
an evening drowns in water — and
above the dark forest suddenly is visible
the glimmer of a star-studded sky — flapping
its wings fly away the bird of the night…

Each has its individual personality,
each its secret goal. Have to
find each in a stupor inside a tremor
where time stops in secrecy,
and meaningless mass of things
change shapes into various stages of meaning.

Each has its designated place,
like planets in the sky
and each is silent observer,
as if — of numerous tides,
waves that line up one after another.



Your sadness is yours
The roots of your sadness is yours
The soil of your sadness is yours

The sunshine, the rain, the wind
Of your sadness
Are all yours

My song, a bird
I let it fly to accompany your sadness
Let it be
Yours too

Those of you who drank from the black pot
You drank the bitter juice of the fruit of the wild tree
In night’s cauldron

Those of you who drank from the white pot
You drank the bitter juice of the fruit of the wild tree

In day’s cauldron

Those of you who peer with a straight gaze
Inside the white pot
Inside the black pot

Don’t be scared
Don’t be worried
Don’t be upset
In your estranged nothingness
You aren’t destitute

Your sadness is yours
The roots, the soil
The sunshine, the rain, the wind

Sitting on the bough of your sadness
From behind the leaves of sorrow
Let the bird sing:

You aren’t destitute
You aren’t destitute

[In Assamese, the pronoun ‘you’ has singular and plural variations — ‘tumi’ and ‘tomalok’. Therefore, ‘your’ too have two variations — ‘tomar’ and ‘tomalokar’. The poem uses ‘you’ and ‘yours’ in plural.]


Paul Cézanne

These are known — unknown fruits

Scratching the eyes found
In my heart

The solidified mass of emotions

Inside the taste and the smell
In that tough emotion
The end of the geometry

From fruit to fruit
Serious sculptures

On the rotating earth
Inside my heart.

[Paul Cézanne (1839-1906): A French artist considered to be last of the impressionists, and founder of cubism. His works on still life, as demonstrated in the painting, Still Life with a Curtain (1895), illustrates Cézanne’s increasing trend towards terse compression of forms and dynamic tension between geometric figures.]


The Green Tremor

In confused piano, among the crowd of fingers,
in the wave of the tune
life forgets itself —

In return, it finds the tremor of its origin.

The wind presses
the paddy field;
the rhythm of that weight tumbles from my chest
to my fingers.

Ten golden ghosts
sing in my body
the green song of the soil.



The heart sinks in water
and finds the tune of transparency,
unfathomable pain.

Among the grass and reeds, there’s drawn,
in rhythmic lines,
the transparent pain of a face;

there lies a few rotten fruits.

In that depth everything is transparent,
everything is without shape
weight of the hand,
the light’s wave,
the speed of darkness

There’s no fear of storm now:
The tune of transparency
is not lost in insane upheaval.


Bhaben Barua was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1979. He studied in Calcutta, and did his masters from Delhi University. After working in Delhi and Punjab University, he finally joined the Gauhati University. His collections of poems include Sonali Jahaj (Golden Ship, 1977) and Bhaben Baruar Kabita Sangrah (Collected Poems of Bhaben Barua, 1997).

Dibyajyoti Sarma has published three volumes of poetry and an academic book, besides numerous writing credits in edited volumes, journals and websites. He was born in Assam and now lives in Delhi.

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