Again we’ll sit face-to-face

Again we’ll sit face-to-face

The day we fled away

Leaving our mother

In the Bhawal woods,

Birds sat dumb in agony on branches.

But light was still filling the sky.

In the sky, there were no wings except birds’,

In the sky, there was no noise except birds’ chirping—

In the sky, except hearts of birds there was no engine.

In the blue waves of Cox’s Bazar sea beach,

Dolphins were playing in spree.

One could see the golden peak of Kanchenjunga from Panchagarh.

Only we couldn’t make our coffee evening together

Furtively touching each other’s fingers,

Sitting face-to-face at the same table.

Instead of stirring coffee spoons in the café

We’ve been confined at our own homes,

Counting on fingers the numbers of deaths—

Dark deaths with white shroud started covering everything—

From TV screen to online news,

From the first page to the last column of the Prothom Alo—

Benzoin odour, not the smell of coffee, began to hit our nostrils.

From March to November and then to December,

The sound of grave digging overwhelmed our existence.

When we left our mother in the woods

And tendered our father to the Anjuman,

A flock of parrots in the sky

Stared at us in disbelief.

Oxygen began to decline,

We started feeling suffocated.

Like Michelangelo’s painting,

We offered our helpless hands to each other.

Before death took the hands away,

Garment workers joined factories, walking hundreds of miles.

Imbued with compassion, youths of Bidyanondo knocked at doors.

Despite being corona-positive twice, Dr Sifat kept on serving patients.

In hospitals newly married women attended to their Covid-patient husbands.

With their mother in their arms, the indomitable youths waited in the hospital—

Beating corona, they returned home with a smile on the face.

Their smile dispersed in the sky.

Seeing humans stand by humans,

The birds smiled again.

The sun fondled leaves at dawn.

We stepped towards 2021.

Birds are with us,

Beside us wind rivers.

Seas flow before us,

Behind us stand hills.

The sky walks with us,

And with us, we have humans.

With coffee mugs in hands, we’ll sit again

Face-to-face, as if two blue-throated birds.

(Translated from the Bengali by Mohammad Shafiqul Islam)

Anisul Hoque is a Bangladeshi writer, poet, and journalist who won the Bangla Academy award for literature in 2011. He works for Prothom Alo, and is a fellow of the International Writing Program, University of Iowa.

Mohammad Shafiqul Islam, poet and translator, and author of Inner State (Daily Star Books, 2020), is Associate Professor in the Department of English, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Sylhet 3114, Bangladesh Email: