Between three mountains
embracing the moon.
From a broad arm of steel
emerges one thousand hands.
In a huge flood that is unexpected
not because of strength,
not because of intelligence,
but because of the element of chance.
Of the strong and the intelligent
many die helplessly.
The pure small children
although they are powerless
survive the disaster
And saved also are those
who once more become young children
and dissolve into the universe.
WS Rendra, Ode to a Huge Flood (Syair Banjir Besar), Lotus Poems (Syair Teratai), Sinar Harapan Daily, 19 April 1975 (Accessed from Armin Bell, Kumpulan Fiksi Blog, Collected Fiction Blog.)
Habit is not personality
Personality is also not a delusion
Personality comes from emptiness.
When we are empty
we are agile and alert.
we can respond to anything,
according to the circumstances
and not based on habit.
The full are rigid and lumbering –
often even have no power.
The empty are in fact full of power.
WS Rendra, Emptiness is Full of Power (Kosong Itu Penuh Daya), Lotus Poems (Syair Teratai), Sinar Harapan Daily, 19 April 1975 (Accessed from Armin Bell, Kumpulan Fiksi Blog, Collected Fiction Blog.)
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.
Do not just grab me any way you feel like it.
It’s pretty clear to me where this is going.
I am no seer,
but I can obviously already see
what this hug means…
Fuck the education I got.
I was taught maths, typing, foreign language, deportment, and administration,
But they forgot to teach me:
If I’m grabbed from behind by the boss,
how should I react then!
Do not grab me any way you feel like it.
Not even my boyfriend dares to be as bold as that.
I can pretty clearly see what your goal is, mister.
When you elbow my tits,
I know what that means……
They taught me to hate sin
but they forgot to teach me
how to find work.
They taught me a lifestyle
whose products do not come from nature.
Taught me to need things that are produced by the bosses,
and controlled by the bosses.
Make-up accessories, air conditioners, synthetic vitamins, tonics, every kind of soda, and school certificates.
Education tided me to their markets, and to their capital.
And now, now that I’m an adult,
where else am I going to run to,
if not to the world of the bosses?
Do not grab me, mister, any way you feel like it.
I’m no academic
but I pretty much know
that all the work on my desk
is going to head in that direction.
Don’t, mister, don’t!
Do not grab me any way you feel like it.
Ah. Oh no.
The money you’re sliding inside my bra, mister,
is my education certificate.
That’s how it is.
You grab me so confidently, mister.
Your fat belly
is pressing against my stomach.
Your fowl mouth
is kissing my mouth.
You do all of this
like it’s all normal, mister.
Every person in the community is helping you.
They grab both my legs.
And they force my thighs open
as you climb on top of my body, mister.
Yogya, 10 July 1975
Poem of a Young Woman and Her Boss (Sajak Gadis dan Majikan), State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 30.
To recall mother
Is to recall dessert,
Wife is the sustaining main
Girlfriend the side dishes,
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.
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 lapdog 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 the leader of the revolution?
Will the corruptor and lapdog 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.
23 October, 1977
Poem for Mother (Sajak Ibunda) was published in State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 52.