Eric Fischl’s selection, “The Grasshoppers’ Silence” by Canadian poet Linda Rogers, is inspired by the true story of Rumana Monzur, who was tragically blinded in an attack by her husband in Bangladesh in June 2011. “I’ve chosen this poem because the image of the one-legged grasshopper won’t let me sleep,” said Fischl of his selection.
When asked for a comment on the poem, Rogers replied: “Poetry should not always be easy to write or to read, but hopefully it is part of the process of redemption, when the silent learn to sing.”
The Grasshoppers’ Silence
By Linda Rogers
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Listen to the story the prisoner’s wife
hears in the Bengali darkness: the
one he’d told her about a grasshopper
he’d caught in his sweep net at dusk
and taken home in a glass jar with
breathing holes punched in the lid.
“Why do boys catch insects?” she’d asked,
and he’d answered: “Because they are lonely.”
He told her the alarmed grasshopper
fiddled, rubbing its leg against its
belly. In Bangladesh, as in China,
ancient violins have one string; and
they sing in minor keys. “Why is their
music so sad?” she asked him, even
though she already knew the answer.
“Their music is sad because grasshoppers are sad.”
In Bangladesh, unfaithful women are
called “grasshoppers,” because the
adulteresses jump from leaf to leaf
in monsoon swamps. “Don’t ever leave
me,” her husband had ordered his
captive insect, pulling off one of its
legs before he made it a suit of rags.
“Did it ever sing after that?” she’d asked.
His wife was a curious woman who’d
gazed past the Chittagong Hills to praise
the sunrise, its clamorous golds and
vermilions. “Don’t you ever leave me,”
he’d said to her every time she opened
a book or looked out the window, her
eyes astonished as water lilies opening
to the first light of dawn. And that one
last time, “You left me,” tearing out her
eyes and leaving them both alone in the
dark – her in a room without windows and
him in the prison he’d made for himself,
listening to the grasshoppers’ silence.