Saturday Poem

At the Back of Progress

The fellow who sits in the air-conditioned office 
is the one who in his youth raped 
a dozen or so young girls, 
and, at cocktail parties, is secretly stricken with lust,
fastening his eyes on lovelies’ bellybuttons. 

In five-star hotels, 
he tries out his different sexual tastes
with a variety of women,
then returns home and beats his wife 
because of an over-ironed handkerchief or shirt collar. 

In his office Mr. Big puffs on a cigarette,
shuffles through files,
rings for his employee
demands tea, 
and returns to writing people’s character references.

His employee speaks in such a low voice 
that no one would ever suspect 
how, at home, he also raises his voice,
is vile to his family
but with his buddies on the porch or at a movie
indulges in loud harangues on politics,
art, literature, and how some female –
his mother, grandmother, or great-grandmother –
committed suicide.

Bidding goodbye to his buddies,
he returns home,
beats his wife
over a bar of soap
or the baby’s pneumonia.

Next day, at work, he pleasantly brings the tea,
keeps the lighter in his pocket,
receives a tip of a couple of taka,
and tells no one that he divorced his first wife for her sterility,
his second for giving birth to a daughter,
his third for not bringing a sufficient dowry.
Now, with wife number four, he again has someone:
To beat over a green chili or a handful of rice. 

by Taslima Nasrin
from The Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry
Vintage Books, 1996