Poem for Mother

By W.S. Rendra

To recall mother
Is to recall dessert,
Wife is the sustaining main
Girlfriend the side dishes,
And mother
The perfect final,
In the great communal feast of life.

Her countenance is the sky at sunset:
The grandeur of the day that has completed its work.
Her voice the echo
Of the whisper of my conscience.

Remembering mother
I look on the promise of the best in life.
Hearing her voice,
I believe in the good in the human heart.
Looking at mother’s photograph,
I inherit the essence of the creation of the world.

Talking with you, my brothers and sisters,
I remember that you too have mothers.
I shake your hands,
I embrace you in fraternity.
We don’t wish to offend each other,
So we do not insult each other’s mother,
Who always, like the earth, water and sky,
Defends us without affectation.

Thieves have mothers. Murderers have mothers.
Just as corruptors, tyrants, fascists, journalists on the take and members of parliament for sale,
They too also have mothers.

What sort of mothers are their mothers?
Aren’t their mothers the dove soaring in the sky of the soul?
Aren’t their mothers the gateway to the universe?

Would a child say to his mother:
“Mother, I’ve become the lap dog of foreign capital,
Who makes goods which don’t do anything to reduce the people’s poverty,
Then I bought a government mountain real cheap,
While the number of landless villagers goes through the roof.
Now I’m rich.
And then, mother, I also bought you a mountain too,
To be your resting place one day.”

No. This is not something a child would say to his mother.
But how then will a child explain to his mother his position as tyrant, corruptor, forest scourge and mouse plague overrunning rice fields?
Will the tyrant declare himself leader of the revolution?
Will the corruptor and lap dog of foreign capital announce that he’s the hero of development?
And will the forest scourge and rice field mouse plague label himself the ideal farmer?

But, then, what of the beaming gaze of his mother?
Is it possible for a mother to say:
“Child, don’t forget to take your jacket.
Remember to wrap up against the night air.
A journalist needs to stay healthy.
Oh, yeah, and if any fat envelops come your way,
Just pick me up some fried prawns.”

Mother, now I really understand your value.
You are the statue of my life,
Not a fake statue or a white elephant like Monas and Mini Indonesia Park.
You are the anthem Great Indonesia.
You are the rain I watched in the village.
You are the forest encircling the lake.
You are the lotus flower of meditation’s peace.
You are the song of the simple people.
You are the arrow of my conscience in all I do.

Pejambon, Jakarta
23 October, 1977


Poem for Mother (Sajak Ibunda) was published in State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 52.

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