1977 General Election

Poem of a Cigar

Poem of a Cigar

By W.S. Rendra

Taking a drag on a fat cigar
Gaze out over Great Indonesia
Listen to 130 million people,
And in the sky –
Two or three businessmen squat down –
And shit on their heads.

The sun comes up
And the sun goes down
And all I can see are eight million children
Without education.

I question,
But my questions
Slam into the desks of bureaucrats like a traffic jam,
And the blackboards of educators
Cut off from life’s problems.

Eight million children
Cram along one long road,
With no options
With no trees
With no shady places to rest,
With no idea of where they’re going.

***

Suck in the air
Full of deodorant spray,
I see unemployed graduates
Covered in sweat along the highway;
I see pregnant women
Queuing for pension money.
And in the sky:
The technocrats sprout
That the country is lazy
That the country has to be developed,
Must be “upgraded”,
Made to fit technology that’s imported.

Mountains tower skyward.
The sky is a festival of colors at sunset.
And I see
Protests that are pent up
Squeezed under mattresses.

I question,
But my questions
Crash into the foreheads of salon poets,
Who write about grapes and the moon
While injustices take place all around them,
And eight million children with no education
Gape at the feet of the goddess of art.

The future hopes of the nation,
Stars swirling in front of their faces,
Below neon advertisements.
The hopes of millions of mothers and fathers
Meld into a gaggle of clamoring voices,
Become a reef under the surface of the ocean.

***

We have to stop buying foreign formulas.
Textbooks can only provide methods,
But we ourselves have to formulate our condition.
We have to come out into the streets,
Go into the villages,
See for ourselves all the indicators
And experience the real problems.

This is my poem,
A pamphlet for a time of emergency.
What is the point of art,
If it’s cut off from the suffering around it
What is the point of thinking
If it’s cut off from the problems of life.

ITB Bandung
19 August 1977


This version of Poem of a Cigar (Sajak Sebatang Lisong) was published in State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978.

Three parties in the 1977 election - Poem for a Cigar
The three parties in Indonesia’s 1977 legislative election

Other work by WS Rendra

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