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Tailor in Dhaka, Bangladesh | by brightasafig
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Tailor in Dhaka, Bangladesh

BANGLADESH - 1972

 

The boatman lends me

his old Burmese straw hat,

regarding me closely.

 

Fiddler crabs freeze

as I approach, like a hundred

tiny red Volkswagens.

 

He giggles and blushes

pointing out

a girl who was raped.

 

I walk on, straight into the mud.

I look round. Two little boys

close their hands in prayer.

 

He gathers up the mud

with his bare hands and throws it, splat,

onto the new paddy wall.

 

The paddy empty;

they search the mud for fish. They

see me watching. Laughter.

 

A jackdaw steals a fish;

nobody cares. A man steals some fruit.

They slap him with a shoe.

 

Sitting, sticky with communal sweat,

breathing bodily emissions.

At least the train’s moving.

 

She’s disgusted with me

because her bloody child

crapped on my bloody foot.

 

A tired old Bengali waits,

watery eyes wide, bewildered,

an umbrella between his knees.

 

A mad man touches my foot.

They beat him away with sticks.

He tries again, so happily!

 

Drawn-faced women in rags

pick husks from the filth.

They find me funny.

 

Smart commuters stand patiently.

At their feet a naked woman

writhes, frothing at the mouth.

 

Small tribal girl

wrapped in indigo,

smokes a fat cigar.

 

A leper woman gently

touches me on the elbow. Her arm

hangs by a string of skin.

 

He bought me tea

and bananas. We talked about

tea and bananas.

 

I close my door, stare at a bare light bulb.

I need to hate these people, but

no – I can’t cope.

 

I report body parts on the beach.

His face darkens. He says

“Mind your own business, Sir”.

  

We rattle towards Dhaka.

He walks the carriage roof:

"c-o-f-f-e-e c-o-f-f-e-e coffee-coffee-coffeeeeee".

 

I listened to his plans to become

a mechanic. They won’t happen.

I hand down his newspapers to sell.

 

Pavement sleepers lie in rows.

Sellers with glass cases on their heads,

mouths red with pan. Bicycle bells.

 

January 2003

 

©Brightasafig

 

NOTE: Made from my 1972 travel journal describing a trip by train and boat from Dhaka to a village outside Chittagong. The India/Pakistan fighting there had just ended.

 

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Uploaded on July 7, 2005