Mohammad Rafiq is a Professor of English at Jahangirnagar University. He was one of the stalwarts of the “Sad Generation” of the sixties, and has since continued to publish poetry that is rich in social criticism and also emotionally charged.


Great and noble Twenty First, the blood dimmed
Twenty First February.

Barefoot processions and streams of people
On Dhaka streets
As if a flash flood has swept all these youths here
Girls with flowing hair and white sarees –
the young men

In their fine shirts, sleeves rolled up.
A black badge pinned to the left shoulder,
faces sweating
From a ritual fire.

From a flower bedecked dais the poet shouts
his fiery words
The revolutionary rhythm of words, phrases
and songs
Which, like unreined horses of the sun, tear
through the air
Filling the sky with echoes of drumming hooves

A thousand hands raised in hope to make the
impossible possible.
The sun’s galleon drops its oars in the eastern sky.

Barely two miles from Dhaka to the south lies
And Jamir: predictably unclad, barefoot,
and empty stomached
Couldn’t even afford a few left over morsels
from last nights’ meal
Puts yoke on a pair of skeletal oxen.
Vacant, nothing to do now. Nothing to do
yesterday, or tomorrow.
Yet expecting the barren red soil, a gift of the
would at last speak
lashed by the angry iron of the plough.
And Rahimuddin opens the shutters of his shop
and sweeps the dirt out.

Last night the mice ate into his store of pulses.

The executioner has no special dress, no family tree,
no name, place or postal address. A bloated
smile plays on his lips
Displaying in its ebb and flow
A varied conflict of countless waves.
Geographic landmarks are etched on the history
of the land and time.

Birth on the gift of a moment, death of a
particular day,
The neck waits under a raised blade, as language
Finds similes under a guillotine,
And courage and the integrity of words; and
An honest trade in return.
But in your effort to dig out a grave
And hide Jamir’s remains in it, you have
forgotten the Twenty First.