Poem of an Old Person Under a Tree
By WS Rendra
This is my poem,
an old person standing under this barren tree,
holding both hands behind my back,
and in my mouth a clove cigarette that’s dead.
I behold the age.
I see the state of the economy
in shop windows full of foreign brands,
and the terrible roads between villages
that doesn’t allow any interaction.
I see looting and decay.
I spit on the ground.
I stand at the front of a police station.
I see the bloodied face of a demonstrator.
I see the lawless violence.
And one long road,
full of dust,
full of feral cats,
full of children with scabies,
full of awful terrifying soldiers.
I walk following the sun,
down the byways of the history of development,
that are dirty and full of deceit.
I hear someone say:
“Human rights are not the same everywhere.
Here, to maintain a good climate for development,
political freedoms must be limited.
To overcome poverty
requires the sacrifice of some basic rights.”
My God, what bullshit is this!
Do they think a fart can substitute for a sense of justice?
In this country basic rights are reduced,
in fact to defend the established and the rich.
Workers, farmers, fishers, journalists and students,
are made powerless.
Oh, falsehood that has been deified,
how far can you resist the reality of life.
I hear the roar of the traffic.
I hear the theatre of trials.
I hear the news.
Urban guerrillas running wild in Europe.
A businessman who was a stooge of the fascists,
a hard man who opposed the workers,
was kidnapped and murdered
by a group of people who are angry.
I gaze at the sunset at the harbor.
My feet are aching,
and the cigarette in my mouth is out again.
I see blood in the sky.
Yes! Yes! Violence has begun to entrance people.
The powerful are everywhere pressing.
The angry have begun to bring out weapons.
Bastards are opposed with bastardry.
Yes! This is now the possibility starting to attract people.
If the courts don’t prosecute the official bastards,
then the street bastards are going to be put on trial.
So what says the conscience of humanity?
Who has created this state of emergency?
Do people have to copy the behavior of the official bastards?
If not, why are the official bastards not prosecuted?
What says the conscience of humanity?
Oh, Sunset that blazes!
Brief but thrilling the soul!
Then soon people look for the moon and the stars!
Oh, pictures that are passing!
Because the air over the people is oppressive,
and the air outside is awash with the shimmering twilight,
so conscience is poisoned by deception.
Yes! Yes! I am an old person!
I am tired but haven’t given up the ghost yet.
I stand now at a crossroads.
I feel like my body has become a dog.
My soul still toils to write this poetry.
As a member of humanity.
Pejambon, 23 October 1977
A Picture of Development in Poetry
Poem of an Old Person Under a Tree (Sajak Orang Tua Di Bawah Pohon), State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978.