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Biography
Dilara Hafiz, born in 1955 in Garpara, Manikganj district, East Bengal, received her degrees in Bengali Literature and in Education from Dhaka University, and lives with her husband, noted Bangladeshi poet Rafiq Azad, and their two sons in Dhaka, where their home is a major meeting place for poets and writers from all over Bangladesh and West Bengal. She teaches at Eden Girls' College in Dhaka and has published several books of poetry.

FOR MY FATHER

- by Dilara Hafiz (Translated from the Bengali by Carolyne Wright with Syed Manzoorul Islam and the poet)

For a long time after I was born
you didn't come to see me, Father--
Nestling my face against Mother's warm breast
I grew up anyhow amidst a multitude of troubles…
Meanwhile, my life's long days are passing by
with no care or solicitude.
Isn't it true, Father, in your garden of delights
                I'm just an indifferent flower?
My sister Ranu is everybody's darling;
you two have kept her with you
and her two children are even dearer to you both.
For my brother Selim I have more than one sorrow:
his stagnated life
has given you much grief--
this grief resounds like so many kettledrums
                in all our hearts--
Even now, if I go home for any special holiday
I sometimes start suddenly awake
        in the middle of the night:
a formless resentment
causes an unfounded aching to well up in my heart.
Still, from the adjoining room
I hear the staccato sound
                of your scattered words:
it seems as if a record from long ago
        is playing far away
on some broken gramophone,
                playing on and on…
Stealthily, the memories of my earliest childhood return,
the famous past--
so that one night nearly twenty years ago
I hid my face like this against my father's breast
                and fell asleep-
                    Was that really you?
You went out to pick up the word's gleaming stones
and never returned…

Ah, Father,
how many thousand nights have passed since then
in an ashen flood--no other happy day like that
has ever come, nights flushed as apples.
Still, the warmth of that happiness--in old faces,
still that warmth--in the depths of the heart
trembles like a flawless pond!
Yet before my eyes
your black hair has turned white,
a deeper darkness has removed the brilliance
of your clothes--that's why
your glasses rapidly grew thicker:
and with both hands you smoothed on
the profound gloom of age.
Yet in your day you used to draw a vibrato from the sitar,
and with your friends passed the time
in pleasant conversation, and when you had time
in the evening, you'd take Mother's hand
and go for a stroll in the park--
Though you know the artist's nature
still you grow sad;
when you hear the sound of a bird's feather falling
you're startled--
Lying in your sickbed, you wonder
why none of us, your ordinary children
came up to your expectations…
Ah, Father,
we don't know
if you like this solitude weighted down by death--
we don't know if any of your faith
survives--yet I say
in keeping with the unanimous wish of you both,
that I want to be an all-encompassing golden lamp
wrought by the artisans' collective hands.
Therefore I tear myself away from time
that clings to me like thorns, and hurry off;
but still I can't extricate
myself completely--
Every night at midnight, do you stay awake
        for this, Father?