Advertisement for a Friend by Mahadev Saha

Published in Padma Meghna Jamuna: Modern Poetry from Bangladesh (2010), edited by Kaiser Haq and published by the Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature.

I am looking for a friend who will

share in my grief for my father, who will take

the polluted breath from my lungs;


when the ravages of winter upsurge in the city

his face will seem a packet of green tea, when

infectious diseases appear here and there,

when, with its sharp teeth, tuberculosis rends my lungs

like termite-ridden currency notes,

when the police follow me around

suspiciously, he will throw me

tender bandages from a double-decker bus, will fling to me

a transparent magic handkerchief.  I will fly as a bird from the police squad

to the disarmament meet at Geneva and tell them

I am my lover’s fugitive spy;


He will come to me in the darkness like a sly thief

and take all the sthalapadma blossoms from my pocket,

he will whisper in my ear, that impossible rogue,

“Come on, let’s go take in the night show.”

Then, he will constantly take me to the wrong address.

Still that awful rogue will share in all my mistakes,

he will record all his sins in my diary,

bearing my sins in hand he will enter a church with the pride of a priest.

Everywhere in this city of Dhaka: the Press Club, the restaurants, the Racing

Grounds, I seek a friend to whom at the moment of my death

I can bequeath all these illegal treasures, this disrepute,

my debaucheries.  In exchange he will forever supply me with sleeping pills

he will conceal the knife of my crimes in his heart, he will

write to my father

saying, “Don’t worry about him, he’s such a good boy,

he goes to work nine-to-five.” Yet he will know all

my bad habits, all the flaws of my nature.

Still he will load his camera with film and go with me

to take pictures of a young man who has committed suicide, finally

he will ride on a train traveling to some small town and descend

at the wrong station;


Here and there, everywhere I have been looking for a friend

who will take me to hunt deer in the Sundarbans, who will pick out

the precious parts from the antlers and the transparent hooves, as if

he will make buttons out of the hidden hooves, he will

make loans to me every day out of simple greed.  Here

and there, in all the familiar places of the city I look for that

artless accomplice; every day, through all my, life I advertise for a friend

but, alas, my blood group

never matches with anyone else.