Written by Hoang Luu
Narrow roads, yellow blurs and dreamy heat. Chickens fight and toads leap—all of such a noisy abode where people breathe on each other’s breaths. Poet Zubair Ahmed illustrates a copy of our world in his collection City of Rivers.
Dhaka, of Bangladesh, is one of the densest nationalist capitals in the world. As I read Ahmed's compilation of poems, I cannot help but bear witness to a foreign country that is so strikingly similar to my homeland where the same monsoon rain becomes the earth that shares our twin living grounds.
Both of our homelands are brightest when warmed. The sun rises early to dazzle heat upon the crowded walkways, while little shadows are provided by the enclosing rooftops that seem to shake heads with each other like canopies. Chickens flock frightfully and angrily and grotesquely on the battleground as people pitch each against the other. Their wings flap and pound while their beaks bite and grapple at the other’s throat. Laughter and shrills gather round, Dogs bark insanely. The laughs are taunting barks. The smell of lime and herbs, as well as spices and curry, fill the dazzling air. The steamed rice, the fried rice, and the cracked eggs rumble against the town’s yanking sirens and yelling overthrows.
Vietnam and Bangladesh are both politically unstable. Law enforcers are weak-willed, corrupted, or go mindfully astray. Drugs and assaults roam along with the yelling of the populace, while taxi drivers secretly leer at which ways the fare can jump highest. Townsmen gamble; women gamble; the children sleep when the sun is bright yellow.
Ahmed’s, “A Road to the Sky”, beautifully depicts the two countries’ similarities: although the rich and dense populace yell and sing to their neighbors’ ear-walls, there is yet a silent need of deliverance or companionship of love, of kindness, of security. It is interesting that Ahmed uses dark and contrasting diction that evokes an atmosphere of silence, sadness, and madness. All-in-one of the already honest, crowded but energetic dwellers of our two homelands. The images are alluring to the insane frightfulness of reality, such that reality is so sad and deep, as well as remorseful, helpless, hopeless, and dead. It is as though not only the chickens are under water but the people of the land that have been stained by corruption, deception, and poverty are under water too -- so often like a passing bullet. Despite the rich, noisy texture of Vietnam and Bangladesh, Ahmed instills a deep silence with his images of loss and of hopelessness, as if the blood vessels are narrow—narrowly hopeless, hurt, and suffocating in the heart.
The most fascinating aspect of “A Road to the Sky” is the title. I wonder why Ahmed names the piece in such a way, despite the content of luxurious darkness and hopelessness? There is so much “gray” in the poem: “[a]ll the good men are buried.” While vultures eat the flesh of these men, it is as though the speaker is saying that everything is lost, sad, and beyond cure. It is to say that even new sprouts, new life, and new youth cannot even bring civilization to the place:
Children sell knives at the corner,
A raven pretends to be a crow
There is nothing helpful that can be done. I am fascinated by the writer’s jesting of sky despite the allures of darkness, gray, and hopelessness,What does it mean when the walking journey ahead will bring you to the sky? Is the sky a haven of paradise? Heavenly? Or, is it a path to escape? To run away from all this—there is a longing for a dwelling -- a longing for wonder, for a dream, and maybe for a hope that ends in safe beauty -- in safe yelling-around.
I am another river from another distant shore. We meet in that crossing place.
Hoang Luu is a learner and writer of poetry. Hoang writes poems and stories as a hobby. His dream is to contribute to the world one day through poetry, stories, and books that celebrate morality, hope, and humanity. He is a senior at Pasadena City College and is pursuing the fine arts of Creative Writing.
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