Matador Review

A Quarterly Missive of Alternative Concern

SOfiul Azam

The scavenger


I often see him on my way home
    at night, fighting stray dogs for food
near the garbage

    spilled out at the street corner.
His life must be as serious
    as the night-hunt of a fruitarian

scavenging in roadside garbage.
    He must have trained himself
through the toughest

    of austerity measures. And perhaps,
with the rains setting in
    on the slippery tail of a busy summer

coming up as sudden as an accident,
    even the thought of a bug-infested bed
is for him a luxury. As his fortune

    wriggled out of his fingers long before
like an eel, every good thing seems
    to be a pain in the ass,

and the smell of fried
    coriander seeds a whirlwind
of chili powder in the nostrils.

    As for his tummy, it doesn't swell
with food; it rather gets
    bloated with ulcerous gas.

Listen, what comes out of it
    doesn't smell at all like eau de cologne
killing odor-causing bacteria.

    His body doesn't make
any difference, either. Who knows
    why his fate turned and taught him

how to accept humiliations warmly
    and make himself at home with them?
For it's all written on the wrinkles

    of his forehead. Perhaps he's confronted
them many times, telling
    "I don't need you. I have enough

memories of you to live with."
    But they stay on
like iron filings in a magnetic field.

    Every humiliation
– as far as I can imagine –
    is scarier than when you get trolled

on the web or when you lose
    a libel claim in court. At times,
he's broodingly quiet

    as when a convict knows there will be
no reprieve. Yes, you can take
    an educated guess

on his life or how it all started off
    like a seed from dogshit
germinated on a pavement crack.

Sofiul Azam has three poetry collections: Impasse (2003), In Love with a Gorgon (2010), Safe under Water (2014) and edited Short Stories of Selim Morshed (2009). His poems are published in Prairie Schooner, Cholla Needles, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Journal, Orbis, The Cannon's Mouth, Postcolonial Text, and elsewhere. Some of his poems are anthologized in Journeys, Caught in the Net, Poets Against War, Poetry for Charity Volume 2. Some of his translations from the Bengali are published in The Daily Star. He is working on Earth and Windows: New and Selected Poems. He teaches English at Victoria University of Bangladesh.