Shamshur Rahman
Asad’s Shirt

Like bunches of blood-red Oleander,
Like flaming clouds at sunset
Asad’s shirt flutters
In the gusty wind, in the limitless blue.
To the brother’s spotless shirt
His sister had sown
With the fine gold thread
Of her heart’s desire
Buttons which shone like stars;
How often had his ageing mother,
With such tender care,
Hung that shirt out to dry
In her sunny courtyard.
Now that self-same shirt
Has deserted the mother’s courtyard,
Adorned by bright sunlight
And the soft shadow
Cast by the pomegranate tree,
Now it flutters
On the city’s main street,
On top of the belching factory chimneys,
In every nook and corner
Of the echoing avenues,
How it flutters
With no respite
In the sun-scorched stretches
Of our parched hearts,
At every muster of conscious people Uniting in a common purpose.
Our weakness, our cowardice
The stain of our guilt and shame—
All are hidden from the public gaze
By this pitiful piece of torn raiment Asad’s shirt has become
Our pulsating hearts’ rebellious banner.

Translated from the Bengali by Syed Najmuddin Hashim.