Kathryn Hummel: ‘Buried Even Under’

Kathryn Hummel reading ‘Buried Even Under’

‘Khachar bhitor ochin pakhi kemne ashe jay…’
-Lalon Fakir


Never had the taste to travel in pairs
have I : I let the sheet of each country
slip off me

Bondhu! what it used to be is not 
where it once lay on this
skewed board of play : I try
moving in lines, smooth as the Queen

Each shift shows how far from arrival 
am I : bountiful the time
when thought sketched the shape
of my imprint, the rearing heads of its pattern
buried even under the crust of Kushtia
or some other dust of its ancestors : inlaid
like innocent grain in the decadent earth

Loneliness is the same
wrote he : a pillar 
as constant as five elements 
seeing off six seasons, the peeling away
of their limited embrace


Down to the river to cry me
a lesser one : this way went the
flow : no ache remained
but the rainbirds seeking water 
long before barsha : 
saturated with the stains of
birthing, a lep skimmed 
the current : in its discardment,
a cleansing


Sounds heard but never recorded :
tearing masalina into fine strips: the 
pull of water through the iron pump : the
crack of rat’s bone in kitten jaw : red
yarn unravelled and re-bound: the
swollen clatter of a ghungur : the
creak of the rosy descendent sun : a
break in the music for the azan : the
turning of earth under delicate hands : flames
snapping within their ring : the
foot-drop of the last to depart : or
the first to rise, following 
the dark-brewed dawn


Glossary

Khachar bhitor ochin pakhi kemne ashe jay: the unknown bird in the cage, how does it fly in and out?
Bondhu:friend
Barsha:rainy season
Lep:quilt
Masalina:muslin
Ghungur: circlet of bells used in song and dance


Kathryn Hummel is the author of four books of poems, with Lamentville (Math Paper Press), splashback and A Few Franks for Dearest Dominic (Prote[s]xt Books) forthcoming in 2019. Uncollected, her creative and scholarly works have been widely published/presented/translated/anthologised/ recognised. Recipient of the NEC/Meanjin Essay Writing Competition prize and the Melbourne Lord Mayor’s Dorothy Porter Award, Kathryn’s writing has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, The Atlas Review’s Non-Fiction Chapbook competition and Overland’s Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize. A former writer in various residences, Kathryn holds a PhD for studies in narrative ethnography and edits non-fiction and travel writing for Verity La.

(Photo by Omar Faruque)

Paula Abul: Горчивник

Paula Abul reading ‘Gorchivnik’

I still think of you as a quiet man,
the kind of man who, stepping
in plainly human shit on
a riverbank could scrape himself 
clean in silence, who wouldn’t even 
wrinkle his nose because gestures 
are words and why speak when не нужно.

it’s my duty as a daughter to flatten you
into something I can hold, tuck you into 
the top of my boot and call it growth. 
горе живое и ржавит тебя. 

how sweet and baffling then,
your застольный routine
me – aghast,
you – lining them up:

          3 chillies (green), 
          2 cloves garlic (raw), 
          1 teaspoon mustard (hot english)

with hands soaked in method 
you’d deliver each one, and I’d 
brace for the tears and the thunder
горчит! алxамдулилла, горчит!

it seems to me now the 
most adult thing, to twist in the
heat and call it pleasure.

I think if Openness had eyes they’d 
be fringed in fine gold petals, холуд
dancing down her arms, gauzy орна
flapping in the sticky жар.

на его месте, у нас есть холод, 
Российская верность, склизкие
слова напиханные в шершaвыe
чемоданы, a language that casts
mustard in sorrow’s shadow. 

now I buy шориша oil labelled
‘for human consumption’ and
think of a yellow so bright it
seems lit with sin, a lurking vapour
like sirens, capable of firing twelve 
rounds into your sinuses with a laugh. 

I stepped in shit by the river too, 
caked it deep in the grooves of
my self-conscious boots
and the crescent boats curling
towards the sky rocked as my cries
thundered across the Подда. 


Paula Abul is a poet, linguist, and illustrator living in Naarm. Through a quirk of Soviet international education policies, they have grown up communicating with their Bangladeshi father in Russian, a language neither of them is entirely fluent in. This particular situation has been both beautiful and isolating – their father has a dexterity with Slavic grammar that is unhindered by canon, and together they have filled in any gaps with etymological leaps and creativity; on the other hand, they are not easily understood by Russian speakers, and there has been no functional distinction between Bengali and Russian words since they are all plugged into the same almost-Russian grammar. This poem reflects that linguistic landscape, as well as the encroaching position of English as we continue to settle in so-called Australia.