(Note: Writing 'Southasia' instead of 'South Asia' is a charming orthographic innovation that indicates the region's civilizational unity; it is used by Himal, the weekly published from Kathmandu, and the Southasian TV Channel, of which Rubana was CEO for some years.)
Let us say you dream of a woman,
and because she isn't anywhere around,
imagine her across the border.
You travel hunched and twisted in a crowded bus,
on a ferry through opaque night
lacerated by searchlights,
to this squalid frontier town:
a one‑legged rickshawallah takes you round
to a six‑by‑eight room, the best in the best hotel.
But instead of crossing over you lie dreaming
of the woman, and the border:
perfect knife that slices through the earth
without the earth knowing,
severs and Joins at the same instant,
runs inconspicuously through modest households,
creating wry humour – whole families
eat under one flag, shit under another,
humming a different national tune.
You lie down on the fateful line
under a livid moon. You
and your desire and the border are now one.
You raise the universal flag
of flaglessness. Amidst bird anthems
dawn explodes in a lusty salute.
Kaiser Haq has just retired as professor of English from the University of Dhaka; he is currently the Dean of Humanities at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh, and a poet and translator.