The Cat Under the Stairs
  • The Cat Under the Stairs

To God

How many things they say about you —

that you created the expanding universe,

or was it that the world’s people

created you? Whose side do you choose?

The rich — who take more than their due

and toss scraps to the poor, and toss you, too?

Or the poor — who hope you’ll turn things upside down

and so deliver them? But you never do.

In battle, you sit by the victor.

Nietzsche says, you’re dead.

Pascal says, we can’t know whether or not you exist,

but it’s worse to be fooled for disbelieving.

These are weighty and deep philosophical questions. I see

a forest behind me, a desert in front of me,

and man in the middle, in his encampments.

And bullock carts hauling heaps of beef every day.

— Sarat Kumar Mukhopadhyay

(trans. by Robert McNamara and author)

Sarat Kumar Mukhopadhyay (b. 1931) is Bengali poet who lives and writes in Calcutta, India. In an email interview with the Reader, translator Robert McNamara said that Mukhopadhyay “is one of the most important and respected Bengali poets of his generation. A member of the influential and irreverent Krittivas group, he has published 11 books of poems as well as a number of novels, short-story collections, critical essays, travelogues, and translations. A selection of his work translated by McNamara can be found in The Cat Under the Stairs (Eastern Washington University Press, 2009).

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