Asimetris

Poem for a Bottle of Beer

By W.S. Rendra

Downing a whole bottle of beer,
I stare at the world,
and what I see is people starving.
I light some incense,
breath in the earth,
and listen to the thunder of the rioters.

The cost of hitting the town for one night,
is equivalent to the cost of developing ten villages!
What the hell kind of civilization have we created?

Why do we build huge cities,
and ignore the culture of the villages?
Why does development lead to hoarding,
rather than distribution?

Huge cities here don’t grow from industry.
They grow from the needs of foreign industrial countries
for markets and their need to buy natural resources.
Large cities here
are a means for Europe, Japan, China, America,
Australia and other industrial countries to accumulate.

Where are the old back roads?
The ones which connected villages with other villages?
They’re now abandoned.
They’re now ditches or potholes.

The roads today
represent the colonizer’s planning of years ago.
They’re just a means of distributing foreign goods from
the ports to regional centers, and natural resources from regional centers to the ports. Roads are created specifically for,
not the farmers,
but the middlemen and the Chinese businessmen.

Now we’re swept away in a stream of civilization that we don’t control.
Where we can’t do anything except shit and eat,
without the power to create anything.
Are we going to just stop here like this?

Do all countries that want to advance have to become industrial countries?
Do we dream of having endless factories,
which ceaselessly produce –
have to forever just produce things –
and finally force other countries
to become markets for our products?

Is the only option apart from industry just tourism?
Does our economic thinking
suck only on the breast milk of communism and capitalism?
Why is our own environment not considered?
Will we just be swept away
in the power of accumulating things
which spread pollution and degradation
of nature both without and nature within people themselves?

We have been taken over by one dream
to become someone else.
We have become foreign
in the land of our own ancestors.
Villagers are skittish, chasing the dream,
and enslaving themselves to Jakarta.
The people of Jakarta are skittish, chasing the dream
and enslaving themselves to Japan, Europe or America.

Pejambon, June 23, 1977

 


Poem for a Bottle of Beer (Sajak Sebotol Bir) was published in State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 62.

Featured image: ASIMETRIS (full movie)

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Waterval met roofvogel

Poem for the Condors

By W.S. Rendra

A mountain breeze sweeps down, creeps through the forest,
then blows across the surface of a vast river,
coming to rest finally among the tobacco leaves.
Then its heart is filled with compassion
On seeing the sad fate of the peasant workers
Planted in soil that is so rich, so fertile,
But which provides no prosperity for its people.

The peasant workers,
Living in windowless shacks,
Plant seedlings in the fertile soil,
Reap abundant rich harvests
While their own lives are full of misery.

They harvest for rich landlords
Who own beautiful palaces.
Their sweat turns into gold
That is collected by the fat owners of cigar
factories in Europe.
And when they demand income equality,
The economists adjust their ties nervously,
and respond by dispatching condoms.

Suffering overflows
from the trenches lining the faces of my people.
From dawn till dusk,
the bedraggled people of my country trudge, striving,
turning to the left, turning to right,
in an effort that is uncertain.
At sundown they turn into a pile of garbage,
and at night they are sprawled across the floor,
and their souls are transformed into condors.

Thousands of condors,
millions of condors,
flocking toward the high mountains,
and there gain respite from the loneliness.
Because only the loneliness
Is able to suck out the revenge and the pain.

The condors screech.
In anger they scream out,
Sound out in places that are lonely.

The condors scream
On the mountain crags they call out
Sound out in places that are lonely

By the millions the condors scratch at the rocks,
Snap at the stones, peck at the air,
and in the cities there are those who prepare to
shoot them.


Poem for the Condors (Sajak Burung-Burung Kondor) was published in State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 58.

Featured image: [De Rivier] Waterval met roofvogel

Novel Baswedan

To Be Empty Is To Be Empowered Fully – Lotus Poems

By W.S. Rendra

Habit is not character
Character is not a fantasy
About ourselves.
Character comes from being empty.
If empty
we are agile and alert.
In emptiness
We can respond to all things,
According to the situation,
And not according to habit.
Those who are full are rigid and slow –
Often even powerless.
The empty are actually the fully empowered.


WS Rendra, Empty is Fully Empowered (Kosong Itu Penuh Daya) Lotus Poems (Syair Teratai), Sinar Harapan Daily, 19 April 1975 (Sourced from Armin Bell, Kumpulan Fiksi Blog)

Novel Baswedan

Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigator Novel Baswedan, center, who was injured in an acid attack by unidentified assailants, sits in a wheelchair as he leaves the general hospital where he was initially treated in Jakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, April 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim) (Time.com) Novel was subsequently treated in Singapore for 10 months, before returning to work in Jakarta in early 2018.

For background to Mr. Novel Baswedan see ‘I Don’t Want to Be Sad’: Indonesia’s Top Graft Buster Talks to TIME From His Hospital Bed and Pak Jokowi, Bentuk Tim Independen untuk Ungkap Kasus Novel!

Ahok

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.

Tugu Tani

Poem for a Student Meeting

By W.S. Rendra

The sun rose this morning
Sniffed the smell of baby piss on the horizon,
Saw the brown river snaking its way to the sea,
And listened to the hum of the bees in the forest.

And now it starts to climb into the sky
And it presides as witness that we are gathered here
To investigate conditions.

We ask:
Why are good intentions sometimes no use?
Why can good intentions clash with good intentions?
People say: “We have good intentions.”
And we ask: “Good intentions for who?”

Yes, some are mighty and some are humble.
Some are armed and some are injured.
Some have positions and some are occupied.
Some have plenty and some are emptied.
And we here ask:
“Your good intentions are for who?
You stand on the side of who?”

Why are good intentions put into practice
But more and more farmers lose their land?
Farms in the mountains are bought up by people from the city.
Huge plantations
Only benefit just one small group.
Advanced equipment that is imported
Doesn’t suit farmers with tiny pieces of land.

Well we ask:
“So your good intentions are for who?”

Now the sun is rising high in the sky.
And will indeed be enthroned above the palm trees.
And here in the hot air we will also ask:
All of us are educated to stand on the side of who?
Will the knowledge taught here
Be an instrument of liberation,
Or of oppression?

Soon the sun will go down.
Night will arrive.
The geckos chatter on the wall.
And the moon sails out.
But our questions shall not abate.
They shall live in the people’s dreams.
Grow in the fields that recede into the distance.

And on the morrow
The sun shall rise once again.
Evermore the new day shall incarnate.
Our questions shall become a forest,
transform into rivers,
And become the waves of the ocean.

Under this hot sun we ask:
There are those who cry, and those who flog,
There are some with nothing, and some who scratch for something.
And our good intentions
Stand on the side of who?

Jakarta
1 December 1977

This poem was presented to students at the University of Indonesia, and performed in the film “Yang Muda Yang Bercinta” directed by Syumanjaya.

 


Poem for a Student Meeting (Sajak Pertemuan Mahasiswa), State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 38.

Image source is Yang Tegak Berdiri Kokoh dan Yang Lunglai Meleyot-Leyot: Tentang Patung, Ruang Publik dan Kekuasaan

Tugu Tani Today

Tugu Tani Today (Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/BXhI9dYAb9J)

For background on the history and controversy surrounding Tugu Tani see Matvey ManizerKisah Di Balik Tugu Tani: Patung Pahlawan,  Banyak Ormas Menuduh Patung di Tugu Tani di Jakpus Sebagai Lambang PKI and the following article from The Jakarta Post ‘Tugu Tani’ a hero statue, not farmers statue: History book .

National Peasants Day 2017

National Peasants Day 2017 (Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/BZarEQAnIRt)

Shu Li Peasant Heroes 1945 NGA

Shu Li, Peasant Heroes, c. 1945 NGA

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

Poem on Hands

By W.S. Rendra

These are the hands of a student,
Undergraduate level.
My hands. Oh my God.

My hand reaches out,
And what I grab is a beautiful hostess’s petticoat.
What an idiot. My hand goes limp.

My hand knocks on the door,
But no one answers.
I kick the door,
And the door swings open.
Behind the door there’s another door.
And always:
There’s a sign with the opening hours,
Which are short.

I shove my hands in my trouser pockets,
And I go out and sojourn.
I’m swallowed by Great Indonesia.

Dozens of hands used in life
Suddenly appear in front of me.
I hold out my hands too.
But they look out of place among the thousands of hands.
I’m worried about my future.

Farmers’ hands are covered in mud,
Fishermen’s hands are covered in salt,
I pull back my hands.
Their hands are full of struggle.
Hands that are productive.
My hands are anxious,
They don’t solve any problems.

But the hands of businessmen,
The hands of bureaucrats,
Are calculating, nibble, and very strong.
My anxious hands are suspected,
Brushed aside.

My hands close into a fist.
And when they open again are transformed into claws.
I reach out in all directions.
At every desk in every office
Sits a soldier or an old person.
In the villages
Farmers are just laborers for landowners.
On the beaches
Fishermen do not own any of the boats.
Trade goes on without supermarkets.
Politics only serves the weather…
My hands close into a fist.
But there’s a brick wall in front of me.
My life has no future.

For now I have my hands in my pockets.
I sojourn from place to place.
I scrawl obscenities
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.

Image comes from https://www.instagram.com/p/BZYRUiSBrrtd13aM9EKfg8l9E5nrXfm3pJFNys0

Graffiti

Poem on a Young Woman and the Boss

By W.S. Rendra

What you’re touching me with however you like,
Where this is going, I’ve already got a pretty good idea.
I’m no rocket scientist,
But it’s already fairly clear
What this groping means…

Damn the education I got.
I was taught to count, type, do foreign language,
Office management and administration.
But they forgot to teach:
What if you’re grabbed from behind by your boss,
Then what am I supposed to do!

Now don’t just grab me however you like.
When not even my boyfriend would be as bold as that.
I already know clear enough where you’re going.
When you brush my tits,
I know what that means…

They taught me to hate sin,
But they forgot to teach me
How to look for a job.
They taught me lifestyle,
With accessories that don’t come from the environment,
That are controlled by the bosses,
Make up, air conditioner,
Synthetic vitamins, tonic,
Every kind of soda and a school diploma,
Education tied me
To their markets, to their capital.
And now that I’m grown up,
Where else am I going to run,
If it ain’t to the world of the bosses?

Don’t grab me however you like.
I’m no intellectual,
But I know enough,
All the work on my desk
Is going to head in that direction.
Don’t, mister, don’t!
Don’t grab me however you like!
Ah. Oh.
The money you slip into my bra
Is my education diploma.
Your fat belly
Presses against my stomach.
Your foul smelling mouth
Kisses my mouth,
As if everything you do
Is just perfectly normal.
Every member of the community helps you.
They all kiss your ass.
They spread my legs wide
While you climb over my body.

Yogya
10 July 1975


Poem on a Young Woman and the Boss (Sajak Gadis dan Majikan), State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 30.

#DaruratDemokrasi

Poem for Young People

By W.S. Rendra

We are the stuttering generation
who’ve been treated like children by an arrogant generation.
We haven’t been given official education
in relation to justice,
because we’ve been brought up to not get involved in politics,
and haven’t been taught about the basics of the legal system.

We find it hard to see a person’s true character,
because we haven’t been taught about the soul or about psychology.

We don’t get an explanation based on clear thinking,
because we haven’t been taught philosophy or logic.

Aren’t we supposed
To understand all of that?
Have we only been prepared
To become tools?

This is the average picture
of youth graduating from high school,
young people nearing adulthood.

The basis of our education is obedience,
not exchanging ideas.

School learning is rote learning,
and not learning how to explain something.

The basis of justice in relationships,
and understanding of how humans behave,
as groups or as individuals,
isn’t considered a subject worth studying or testing.

The reality of the world is only dimly visible.
We can’t connect all the signs,
which are visible everywhere.
We are angry with ourselves.
We resent what the future holds.
Then finally,
we just enjoy our ignorance and comfort.

As we stutter,
all we can do is buy and consume,
without being able to create.
We are not able to lead,
rather all we can do is rule –
just like our fathers.

Education in this country is oriented to the West.
Over there children are prepared
to be the tools of industry.
With their industry that rolls on endlessly,
But here we’re prepared to become tools of what?
We just become the tools of bureaucracy!
And bureaucracy has become bloated,
no use at all –
parasites in the trees.

Darkness. All I can see is darkness.
Education doesn’t provide any light.
Training courses don’t provide any jobs.
Darkness. My agony is darkness.
The people are living in unemployment.

What’s happening all around me?
Because we can’t work it out,
it’s easier for us to run and hide in dope poetry.
What is the meaning of all these complicated signs?
What does this mean? What does this mean?
Ah, in drunkenness,
a blood splattered face
is going to look like the moon.

Why do we have to put up with living like this?
A person with the right to a medical degree,
is thought of as an educated person,
without being tested on their knowledge of justice.
Meanwhile, if tyranny runs rampant,
he doesn’t say a word,
because his job is just to give needles.

What the hell? Are we going to continue being silent?
Law students
are just considered decorations for ceremonies,
while the law is stabbed in the back again and again.
Economics students
are just regarded as plastic flowered,
while people go broke and corruption runs wild.

We’re inside a kaleidoscope
that is magic and inscrutable.
We’re imprisoned in a fog that befuddles.
Our hands reach out grasping for something to grab.
And when we miss,
we hit and scrape –
at thin air.

We are the stuttering generation.
Who have been treated like children by the arsehole generation.
Life force has been replaced by lust.
Enlightenment has been replaced by repression.
We are the dangerous generation.

Penjambon, Jakarta
23 June, 1977

 


Poem for Young People (Sajak Anak Muda), State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 18.

Image of #DaruratDemokrasi from https://www.instagram.com/p/BZGoo6DFQg4.

Amuk Massa Di Kantor LBH Jakarta

tirtoid.id Sunday evening (17/9), a crowd surrounds the offices of Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) following music performances, poetry readings and stand up comedy. https://www.instagram.com/p/BZOKecmhnsm

1977 General Election

Poem for a Cigar

By W.S. Rendra

Taking a drag on a fat cigar
Gazing over Great Indonesia
Listening 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
With no education.

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

Eight million children
Cram down 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 must be developed,
Must be “upgraded”,
Made to fit technology that’s imported.

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

I question,
But my questions
Bang into the foreheads of armchair poets,
Who write about grapes and the moon,
While injustices happen 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 below 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 onto the streets
Go into the villages
See for ourselves all of the indicator
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 life’s problems.

ITB Bandung
19 August 1977


Poem for a Cigar (Sajak Sebatang Lisong) was published in State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 12.

Three parties in the 1977 election

The three parties in Indonesia’s 1977 legislative election