Me Migrant

by Kellynn Wee

Me Migrant, a recently-published book by 24-year-old Bangladeshi poet and migrant construction worker Md Mukul Hossine, reads like a pained inhalation of distance and love. An elegy of brutal longing (“Your eyes / Remember me / Like a war”), the poetry muses from its vantage point in Singapore, fiercely and continually casting its gaze back home to an adored Bangladesh:

“You Know”

Why sky is crying
Did you know

Why clouds are meeting
Oh brother did you know

Why birds no longer sing
Did you know

Why mother cried today
Did you know

Why smiles appear in the grass this morning
Happiness means time to raise a flag

Why a bucket may contain a million-million humans
Did you know

Md Mukul Hossine was born in Patgram, Bangladesh, and came to Singapore in 2008. Me Migrant was launched on May 1st (see photos here) and features poetry originally written in Bengali and translated into English. In the book, he writes in a foreword:

“Everything in my life changed because of money, like the affection of my parents, love from other family members, studies, some dreams of life, my singing of songs – everything has been lost just for the lack of money. Because all the responsibilities for maintaining my family depend on me since the early years of my life. It is not enough that I earn by burning in the sun and working in pouring rain. Even like that, sometimes my family members misunderstand me. Then the fire would burn in my heart. Then the movement caused by my writing would please my heart. Then I forget my uncomfortable thinking and go to my poem world which I love like my child and write poems to open the door of my life.”

The beloved, intimate materiality of Bangladesh – chiming anklets, the heat of spring, kadam trees and puffed rice treats – tangle with brief, punctuated images of Singapore, where the poet “waits at life’s red light”:

from “I Will Be a Firefly”

I will be the rose, dear
At the base of your bun
As a jasmine, I will spread fragrance
Throughout the night

I will be a firefly at your window
I will peer in
Look into your eyes
Lock gaze with my heart’s eyes

I will scatter as flowers of Spanish cherries
You will use me to make a garland
I will hang from your neck
From morning to evening

In Singapore, Md Mukul Hossine returns again and again of the liminality of sleep – sleep as solace, dreams as crossroads and meeting point, vivid dreams equated to memory. The alarm, the coming-to of wakefulness, is an intrusion: “I was in heaven till the phone alarm / Rang suddenly / And I am lying across a shelf bed.” A dream of a beloved inviting him outdoors to “touch the rain” slips away (“sleep ran away / and you disappeared”), and only “rafting on dreams” do the lovers meet.

In research and in civil society activism in Singapore, the migrant worker is often spoken for and spoken about by others: government officials, newspaper think-pieces, Facebook comments, photographs, NGO reports. Me Migrant lances through the haze with lighthouse eloquence.

Read a little more about Md Mukul Hossine here. The book is available here.

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