Poems  by  Sambhunath Chattopadhyay

Translated by Kingshuk Sarkar

Attila’s Stallion

Where’s Attila? Where, that tempestuous Hun emperor?
Where’s his curved sword, the gold crown? Where,
the blade of his spear?

On seeing grey dust-clouds on the horizon
terrified crowds would shout – “There’s Attila. There
comes his stallion”.
Then the plain would soak in blood,
the soil - slithery with crimson curd.
Some leftovers would remain by the wayside –
a severed family (faces covered), a few muffled cries.
Job done, the flag-bearing stallion would gallop on.

Now, on the quiet plain blue shadows blend with the sky.
Attila’s stallion has gone that way. How far? How far
has he gone?

A Realization near the Science College

Radiant love like Radium
had once illuminated the dark deep inside of the heart.
But time didn’t leave it undisturbed…
particles left the centre…
radiation gave birth to glum helium!

Where’s that love, that face, that nascent name?
Now, everything is grey lead, disintegrated
by the laws that governed.
Only the unbearable weight of pure pain
rests on my chest!


When the blue worm turns foe the red lays it to waste.
From what remains a black worm rises whose head
in turn is torn and devoured by a brown one!
Worms are stubbornly alike when it comes to the self.

Worms, worms, an unending procession of worms on every side –
on land, in water, on streets, on highways, worms of every colour and size.
There’s no yardstick to measure which is dumb and which is wise –
everyone is same when it comes to violence and malice.

On every side drop-worms drop into time’s abyss
yet all the time tiny worms try to get big!
At one end, a violet worm catches them in a wink
at the other, other worms rise and sink.

The River

Gently, I touch the river’s breast.
She roughly removes my hand, hissing in the darkness.
The room is tense. The darkness – palpable, dense.
Luckily, my moment of disgrace didn’t have a witness.
The river has calmed and shifted a bit
the skylight now is bluish, sky-lit.
It’s dawn. I’ve to get up but I promise
to pay back in the same coin I’ve been paid with.
Suddenly, a tug. Turning, startled –
A flood! Oh, what a flood!

Sambhunath Chattopadhyay -(1930 – 2018) lived the better part of his life in Manirampur a small town on the outskirts of Kolkata, India. Having chosen to remain outside the poetic movements and fraternities of Bengal, Chattopadhyay never received the limelight of his contemporaries. Neither was he bothered about it. In an interview to ‘Prohor’, a Bengali literary magazine, he remarked “I wander about alone like a child enchanted by a scenery. I pick up whatever I find - coloured feathers dropped by birds, wild red berries, ripe tamarinds, a wild pigeon’s abandoned egg (could also be that of a snake). These have been my life’s savings. When I leave, I’ll leave them to the road. I’ll not look back to see if they ever sparkled in the sunlight. This wandering life has given me more than I could have asked for.” Sambhunath Chattopadhyay died in November 2018, cared for by a young Bengali poet and his wife.

Kingshuk Sarkar works as a Spanish teacher and translator. He has been involved in translating the poetry of Federico Garcia Lorca, Juan Ramon Jimenez and Octavio Paz from Spanish to Bengali. His translations of Lorca and Jimenez from Spanish to Assamese have been published in ‘Satsori’ – an Assamese literary magazine – in 2018. Four poems of Sambhunath Chattopadhyay (translated from Bengali to English by him) have been accepted for publication by an American literary magazine.

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