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Responses to Binoy Majundar

Responses to Binoy Majumdar



One bright fish flew once
Only to sink again into the visibly blue, but truly
Transparent water - watching this pleasing sight
The fruit blushed red, ripening in a deep abyss of pain.


The flight of the bright fish is only a leap

the salmon makes to catch the Hood Canal

fly in water transparent only to whales

& those who ignore their pain in moments like this.



If you never come again, never blow through these steaming regions
like cooling drifts of the upper air,
even that absence is an encounter.
Your absense is as of the blue rose
from the kingdom of flowers. Who knows, some day
you may yet appear. Maybe you have, only you are too close.
Can I smell my own hair?
Marvellous sights have been seen.
A full moon was to have risen last night --
only a quivering sickle appeared!
It was an eclipse.


You never came here, never blew into the steam local volcanoes

push out in May, except for your post-mortem visage which peaks

from under January headdress upon a flower

which appears as your large white mustache.

The sight we all crave to see beyond the smell

of a loved one’s hair is a giant, burning, orange, half-Snow Moon

eclipsed by the jagged edges of skyscrapers which,

after the cello’s jazz tones are reduced to whimpers and memories

somehow seem to remain as solid

as the memory of your last mustache.



What is needed is a sudden turn
leaving the swift hand that plucks butterflies out of the air
gaping at a loss.
The others exist pale and ghostly as stars
brought to brief life by a total eclipse of the sun.
But I cannot change my course now; can the leopard
unspin its leap in midair?
Moreover, they may still be wrong. She can yet appear.
Cream rises only if one lets boiling milk stand and cool.


We make a sudden turn on a Friday night & pluck snowflakes

from the valley sky, snowflakes which bombard the asphalt

in the soft fury only a snowstorm can be. Our course defined

by a seemingly random series of leaps unintentional

& surrenders we only see later

have faith or one more lingering lust at their frothy source

stopping only when the matcha cools

and we watch the trail one snowflake makes

that to our untrained eyes looks random.



The blue stone on my ring shimmers with unquenchable thirst.
I fear the day of my death will be one like this.
Because in some distant age, you had an assassin
for enemy, you live like a rose encircled
by thorns. And I, like a letter gone astray,
have come to the wrong address.


The thirst of stones is worst after the hunt

& the assassin who tracked me in a long ago world

still informs my walk, still melts my wax

only because of the wind

in my bones which I fear to push out

ignoring the example of the rose and its petals.



The pain remained with me a long time.
Finally the ancient root was cut --
from immersion I emerged blinking into light.
I am restored to health now though the season is gray.
Surgery everywhere; this tea table was once the flesh of a tree.


I’ve learned to dodge the ancient pain, or cope with

a veritable carnival of meat and sweet things mama

might’ve warned me about to no avail. The gray season here

never ends except for moments when blue flame burns

through the veil and a smile cuts through the mask of fat she wears.



I have given up strewing grain on the ground
to have the birds join me at lunch.
Only when the baby is cut adrift
does it have its free hunger and thirst;
like taking off a blindfold to be confronted with
a curtain, being born
into this vast uterus, lined with a sky porous with stars.


I kiss the bread before throwing it to November

sparrows as my mother taught me

before the crows ward them off, 

before the vultures can be seen from Havana

rooftops mimicking my once prodigious hunger

fired by a universe of memories older than an ancient

wall of surprising stars a wise man once warned about.



flowers have no room for geometry or even its traces
they are all mixed up into a singular mess
geometry makes the landscape
all those lines we use in poems

I study the geometry of flowers

trace the January sky for memories of meteors

and the angles in the poems are served better not

by the logic of geometry but the motion of the Bemsha Swing.



from time immemorial have these poems existed
like serene mathematics
lying in an unseen corner
awaiting discovery this autumn evening
in the Bakul grove under faint moonlight


Before there were serene mathematics there was an angle

an African cornered in an Igbo minute

or a sunbeam reflection off an ancient

mountain at dusk made of pink and purple hues

only a glacier could create.



Responses, (on the right) composed by Paul Nelson at 6:01P, January 13, 2007 in Olympia, WA.




Poem Notes from:

Binoy Majumdar (1934-2006) was a brilliant, eccentric, obscure and controversial poet whose life and work await chapters of penetrating research. Binoy is an extremely rare poet – it is hard to find a parallel in the western hemisphere. The intense purity with which geometry, mathematics, science and logistics fill the bone-marrow of his poetry, marks his rare genre. Despite being a fine and talented engineer, a brilliant, innovative mathematician and an even more brilliant poet, Binoy led a rather distraught and disoriented life of extreme poverty. Failed by one-sided love (for Gayatri Chakraborty), he lost his mental composure and attempted suicide several times in his life. At times, he would turn violently schizophrenic. In the 1990s, the state government of West Bengal, upon request from fellow poets, provided some support. It didn't restore his physical and mental health. However, during his stay at the state-run hospital, he wrote a book -"haaspaataale lekhaa kabitaaguchchha' (Hospital Poems) which won him the prestigious national poetry award (Sahitya Academy Purashhkaar). Today, Binoy has a huge following among poets three or four decades younger.

Some sample translations from his famous book Phire Eso Chaka (Come back, O Wheel);


Sample 4 is translated by Ron D.K. Banerjee. Sample 7 & 8 are done by Aryanil Mukherjee. All other translation-samples are done by Jyotirmay Dutta, a celebrated poet and editor. Dutta was Binoy’s contemporary, simpatico, his patron and rescuer-in-chief.