Tanganku Mengepal: The People's Land, Resist Land Theft

Poem About Hands By WS Rendra

Poem About Hands

By WS Rendra

These are the hands of a student,
of an undergraduate student.
My hands. Oh my God.

My hands reach out,
and what they grab is a hostess’s filly petticoat,
I am dumb. My hands go weak.

My hand knocks on the door,
but there is no answer.
I kick the door,
and the door opens.
Behind the door there is another door.
And always:
there is a sign with the opening hours
that are very short.

I bury my hands in my pockets,
and I leave and go wandering around.
I am swallowed up by Great Indonesia.

The hands of everyday life
appear before me.
I stretch out my hands.
But they look foreign among the thousands of hands.
I am confused about my future.

The hands of the peasants that are covered in mud,
the hands of fishermen that are covered in salt,
I take in my hands.
Their hands are full of struggle,
hands that are productive.
My frightened hands
do not solve real problems.

The hands of the businessmen,
the hands of the officials,
their hands are fat, agile and very strong.
My nervous hands are under suspicion,
then swept out of the way.

My hands close into fists
and when I open them again are now talons.
I reach out in every direction.
At every desk in every office
a soldier or an old person is entrenched.
In the villages
the peasants just labor for the landowners.
On the coasts
the fishermen do not own their own boats.
Trading goes on without self-sufficiency.
Politics only serves the weather….
My hands close into fists.
But before me stands a brick wall.
My life has no future.

For now I shove my hands in my pockets.
I wander and wander around.
I will write disgusting words
on the chancellor’s desk.


Jakarta Arts Center
23 June 1977

Poem on Hands (Sajak Tangan), State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 34.

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