Shabdaguchha: Logo1 Shabdaguchha: Logo1

Poetry in English

Stanley H. Barkan


He wet my left shoe,
I didn’t agree but let him continue.

He rubbed it with a cloth,
brushed it once.

Then he pushed the left away 
and pointed to the right.

I moved my right shoe
onto the box.

He wet and rubbed, clothed, 
and brushed it.

Then held out his hand.
I gave him 5 Yuan.

He shook his head.
I shrugged my shoulders.

He pleaded with his eyes.
Again shook his grizzled head.

Finally, I gave him another Yuan.
But he rubbed his belly.

I patted his right shoulder
and shook my head.

He went on to another
who refused his footwork.

Now, I think of his thin, gray 
stubbled face, eyes full of mirth.

But, most of all, his rubbing his belly—
regretting I didn’t give him at least a dollar.


After listening
to the song of the bells,
struck by thick long sticks,
each larger than a man,
and the echoes of the stones,
the sonorous whistling
of the mouth blowing 
the bamboo lusheng,
and the plucking of the strings
on ancient zithers . . . 

After watching
the young girls
in red silk
trimmed with gold,
topped with
hats of Chinese calligraphs . . . 

After amazed
at the works
of a distant past,
long before Moses 
in the desert,
long before 
even the pharaohs
dreamed of structures
to contain their
imagined immortality,
signals to the gods
in the distance 
of ten-thousand li . . . 

I feel the pull
of the river’s current,
gliding along the paths
of my yearning . . . 

Buried in the belly
of the cruise ship,
I prepare to rise,
to lift up mine eyes
unto the mountaintops,
there in the mists,
there beyond the Three Gorges . . . 

the rush of water 
over rocks,
                      over rocks,
cascading down
into the subterranean
meanderings of the
mind of myth and magic . . . 
and pure exhilaration.


I have seen no cats 
on the banks of the Yangtze,
though we’ve cruised
for hundreds of miles.
Two fellow passengers
said they saw one cat each,
but these were only 
in one of each of two towns.
Strange, the Yangtze River
is filled with fish,
so the three-board sampans 
& black-awning wupengs
drop & lift their nets 
all along the journey to & from 
the Three Great & Lesser Gorges.
Everyone knows cats like fish—
so where are they?
I miss my cat’s meowing
for breakfast, brushing, 
special treat foods—
slices of kosher smoked turkey,
the juice of salmon & tuna fish—
and time to walk on a leash.

Bishnupada Ray


beside my house a dead tree
both creaking under termites
has turned golden with leaves of spring

so a bird appears from nowhere
over the last poster of my muse
whose big soulful eyes were moons

in best of times when we honeymooned
in the crystal valley of the dead
night's ghostly pale dancing wizardry

of enchanting escapades with shadows
my nightly excavations of her body
now turns up piles of dust and dirt

in my dark room I develop old films
after hacking into her secret desires
to graft a face over the new faces

all creaking under termites
but the dead tree has turned golden
with the sprouted leaves of spring.


after my role playing I slide back to my shell
different sounds at the back of my head
my hair becomes forests of reeds
within the skull the whisper reverberates
in different channels of nervous roots
and glands of aquatic self-echoes
I catch them distinct on the eardrum
my iris makes flickering response
to a synthetic feeling of brain clouds
whisper from the antipodes cajoles me
with the sense that there are people
who can not bear the mystery of being human
the moral order has collapsed
at the end of the journey
only absurdity
the utter purposelessness
in the dark pit of torment
nihilism caresses the mind
where predators lurk
sapping the moral energy
they show a new range of passion
for creativity
where death has a meaning
for a new beginning
amid the collateral emptiness
I do not want to lose you
your love is the innocence
that whispers of my salvation.


with unfailing aim
I set up my target
right between your eyes
that primal urge
to kill you
haunts me like a demon

I can still feel
your butterfly touch
my body gets used to it
some wild boys in the street
grin at me
I remember you set me
on the street naked

at last when I am able
to run my blade
right between your eyes
I know the fulfillment of love

after the funeral
god offers me his service
I want you back from the dead.

Hassanal Abdullah

You say, I am alone; but I am more than one.
I have been so in every universal dawn.
Last year,
during the summer vacation, 
I dug a grave for myself.
I thought it would have a good use
some time.
Let me tell you more about this  . . . 
I actually didn't have to dig a new grave,
I just had to occupy an old one
and then fix it.
To be frank, I learned to do this
from other people. 
Occupying other homes, land, language,
states and politics is a great human practice.
I also installed a wooden door to the grave.
Who else would install such a door but me!
Within a couple of months,
I got a call to use it.
So I entered, as the darkness
wove its vile tongue all over the wall.
Aloneness crumbled me.
The very first night was so horrible.
There was a freezing cold coming from beneath.
I took off all of my clothes and squeezed them
under me.
The night was long, dim, and wet.
At daybreak,
I went out to make my natural call—
who would ever make a loo in a grave!
And when I went back in,
I noticed how time kept on spinning..
Roaches, crickets, and worms
scared me.
Thinking of snakes, my blood got cold.
But gradually my days in the grave
revolved around my loneliness.

Today, I saw cancer on TV—
wearing a hat on his bare head.
I saw a lot of people talking about him—
since they were affected
by the poison of his sick breath.
Wherever he laid his hand,
a complete shape of cancer
slowly walked out of it.
Whenever he stepped forward—
though he never stepped forward—
millions of fans followed him,
as if he were the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

Shabdaguchha, an International Bilingual Poetry Journal, edited by Hassanal Abdullah