Rain on Kolkata’s Breast

Shakti Chattopadhyay
Translated by Khademul Islam

Unwanted, this sudden rain, like the drumming
Of horse hooves on tin-sheds, strewing flowers on streets
Bitter sap flows down garbage heaps, a black stream,
Rain arrives not on bungalows but on all the squalid
Little houses that form Kolkata, it sweeps along alleys—
alleys with tales, patchwork quilts, husk fibers,
stifled middle-class homes, heedless
ways, ballot papers, dry splintered wood—
all these! The rain feeds on itself, nothing is wasted
in Kolkata, dead grass—even that has use.
Birthing room on one side, on the other crematorium ashes
Birth and death: all are arrayed neatly in the rain.
Just as cotton nestles in a velvet lap, so does the rain
Snuggle to sleep on Kolkata’s breast a little late tonight.

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