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The Strength You Draw from Regrets, a Poem by Sofiul Azam

Only those reluctant dullards who became wise at the expense of innocence

can understand the inference that the sourness of mangrove apples

is enough nourishment for birds in the Sundarbans.

But you don’t want to call yourself any wiser,

not because you want people to get the impression that you are humble,

but because you, too, go through long periods of total inaction

or what you call, for lack of a better word to say,

the opposite of thoughtfulness. I know

you don’t want to get yourself involved with those defeatist slugs

but you don’t want to disclose their names to anyone.

Sometimes you marvel at what troubles you went through

with fears buzzing around your ears like flies,

and also at what physical aches and bruises you accepted as examples of stoicism,

but it’s really the good feeling you get when you realize

you got through at least some of them in the end,

with a temporary end in sight on the journey

like the moon turning west and waning toward a new dawn.

When you feel your renewed trust in yourself

floods back without giving you time for preparation,

that’s the beginning you might have awaited for so long,

though quite unknowingly for sure. But you have

no doubts that time’s not yet ripe for harvesting,

and that complacency is just an unprofitable germ coursing through the veins

even though you know throughout your whole life

that something delayed doesn’t always mean something denied.

But every time you repeat yourself, just imagine the horror

of Sisyphus having to repeat the same task for eternity.

By burning the fat and feeding the muscle,

you know struggles never end anywhere, not even after death,

and life means getting the assumptions of sunlight

to pass through a magnifying glass to employ its sharpest flicker

while you are slowly getting yourself transformed in the dark

like a caterpillar in the cocoon.

Or you could say, inching toward the strength you draw from regrets.

And then one fine day, you will find out like a wild surprise

that you are the sufficient company for yourself,

and others simply becoming the background music to that conversation.


Sofiul Azam has four poetry collections Impasse (2003), In Love with a Gorgon (2010), Safe under Water (2014), Persecution (2021) and edited Short Stories of Selim Morshed (2009). His work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Pirene's Fountain, North Dakota Quarterly, The Ibis Head Review, The Ghazal Page, Cholla Needles, Poetry Salzburg Review, Orbis, The Cannon’s Mouth, Postcolonial Text, and elsewhere. Some poems are anthologized in Two Thirds North, fourW: New Writing 28, Journeys, Caught in the Net among others. He is working on This Time, Every Time and Days in the Forested Hills. He currently teaches English at World University of Bangladesh, having taught it before at other universities.


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