Asimetris

A 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

 


A 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

A 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,
and comes to rest finally among the tobacco leaves.
Then its heart is filled with compassion
To see the sad fate of the peasant workers
Planted on soil 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, turned 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.

 


A 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

Dibelenggu semen

Mother Indonesia

By Sukmawati Soekarno Putri

Although I am no expert in the law of Islam
What I do know is the chignon of mother Indonesia
Is very beautiful

More elegant than your chador
So perfectly folded is your hair
As perfect as the fabric that enfolds your body

The creative senses so diverse
Which fuse with the essence of the world around
Scent of forest resin on fingers
Perspiration touched by sea breezes

Behold mother Indonesia
While your appearance is ever more alien
So you can remember

The natural beauty of your nation
If you wish to be beautiful, healthy, virtuous and creative
Welcome to my world, the land of mother Indonesia

Although I am no expert in the law of Islam
What I do know is the sound of the lullaby of mother Indonesia
Is very beautiful

More melodious than your lilting call to prayer
The gracious movements of its dance is divine office
As pure as the rhythm of holy worship
The breath of its prayer combines with creation

Strand by strand the yarn is woven
Drip by drip the soft wax flows
The wax pen etching holy writ on the heavenly world

Behold mother Indonesia,
As your sight grows dim,
So you can comprehend the true beauty of your nation

For ages past, the story of this civilized nation has been love and respect for mother Indonesia and her peoples.


Might be of interest:  Islamic groups report Indonesian politician for reciting ‘blasphemous’ poem   Former Indonesian president’s daughter sorry after blasphemy outrage over poem   Sambil Menangis, Sukmawati Soekarnoputri Minta Maaf.

Wikibackground on the author

Exerpt, Pawukon, Javanese calendrical manuscript, showing Wukir, the third wuku. British Library

Javanese Manuscripts from Yogyakarta Digitisation Project launched by Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono X – Asian and African studies blog, The British Library

On 20 March 2018 Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono X, Governor of the Special Region of Yogyakarta, visited the British Library to launch the Javanese Manuscripts from Yogyakarta Digitisation Project. Through the generous support of Mr S P Lohia, over the next twelve months 75 Javanese manuscripts from Yogyakarta now held in the British Library will be digitised, and will be made fully and freely accessible online through the British Library’s Digitised Manuscripts website. On completion of the project in March 2019, complete sets of the 30,000 digital images will be presented to the Libraries and Archives Board of Yogyakarta (Badan Perpustakaan dan Arsip Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta) and to the National Library (Perpustakaan Nasional) of Indonesia in Jakarta. The manuscripts will also be accessible through Mr Lohia’s website, SPLRareBooks.

(Read more here.)

Pawukon, Javanese calendrical manuscript, showing Wukir, the third wuku. British Library

Pawukon, Javanese calendrical manuscript, showing Wukir, the third wuku. British Library, http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=add_ms_12338_f083r


Source: Javanese Manuscripts from Yogyakarta Digitisation Project launched by Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono X

Novel Baswedan

To Be Empty Is To Be Full of Power – Lotus Poems

By W.S. Rendra

Habit is not character
Character is not a fantasy
About ourselves.
Character comes from emptiness.
If empty
we are agile and alert.
In emptiness
We can respond to anything,
According to the situation,
And not according to habit.
The full are rigid and slow –
Often even powerless.
To be empty is to be full of power.


WS Rendra, To Be Empty is To Be Full of Power (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

A 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,
The great communal feast of life.

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

Remembering mother
I see the best promise of 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 do not want to offend each other,
So we don’t insult each other’s mother,
Who always, like the earth, water and sky,
Defends us without affectation.

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

What sort of mother 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?

Will the child say to his mother:
“Mother, I’ve become the errand boy of foreign capital,
That makes goods which do nothing to reduce the poverty of the people,
Then I bought a government mountain real cheap,
While the number of landless villagers skyrockets.
Now I’m rich.
And then, mother, I also bought you a mountain,
For your grave one day.”

No. This is not something the child says to his mother.
But how then will the child explain to his mother about his position as tyrant, corruptor, forest and rice-field mouse plague?
Will the tyrant name himself the leader of the revolution?
Will the corruptor and errand boy of foreign capital name himself the hero of development?
And will the forest and rice-field mouse plague consider himself the ideal farmer?

But then what of the glowing gaze of his mother?
Is it possible that a mother would 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 you get any fat envelops,
Please pick me up some fried prawns.”

Mother, now I really understand your value.
You are the statue of my life,
Which isn’t fake or a white elephant like the National Monument 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 what I do.

Pejambon, Jakarta
23 October, 1977


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

Manuscript

Shifting Landscapes: intellectual writing traditions of Islamic Southeast Asia – Asian and African studies blog, The British Library

For the past century, studies of the languages, literatures, history, culture and writing traditions of the Malay world of maritime Southeast Asia – comprising present-day Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, and the southern parts of Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines – have been fundamentally shaped by the collections of manuscripts held in European institutions, primarily those in the UK and the Netherlands, and those formed under colonial auspices, such as the National Library of Indonesia.  These collections themselves reflect the interests of their collectors, who were mainly European scholars and government officials from the early 19th century onwards, whose interests were focused on literary, historical and legal compositions in vernacular languages such as Malay and Javanese.  Relatively little attention was paid to works on Islam written in Arabic, or in Malay and Arabic, and hence such manuscripts are very poorly represented in institutions such as the British Library.

Read more: Shifting Landscapes: mapping the intellectual writing traditions of Islamic Southeast Asia – Asian and African studies blog, The British Library

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

A Poem for Young People

By W.S. Rendra

We are the stammering generation
Who are babied by the haughty generation.
We don’t get official education
About justice,
Because we aren’t taught to be involved in politics
And aren’t taught about the fundamentals of the law.

We only vaguely understand what a person’s character is like,
Because we aren’t taught about the heart or psychology.

We don’t understand clear thinking
Because we aren’t taught philosophy or logic.

Weren’t we supposed
To understand all these things?
Were we only prepared
To just be tools?

This is the average picture
Of young people graduating from school,
Young people entering on their adulthood.

The foundation of our education is obedience,
Not the exchange of ideas.

What’s taught in school is rote learning,
And not practice explaining.

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

We understand the reality of the world only dimly,
Signs that are visible everywhere,
Are dots we can’t join.
We’re angry with ourselves
We’re frustrated about our futures.
Then finally,
We just enjoy life of stupidity and comfort.

As we stammer,
All we can do is buy and consume,
We aren’t capable of creating.
We aren’t capable of leading.
But we are able to use authority –
Exactly like our fathers.

The 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 serve as the tools of what?
We just become the tools of bureaucracy!
And a bureaucracy that’s grown bloated,
Totally useless –
A parasite.

Darkness. All I can see is darkness.
Education doesn’t provide enlightenment.
Training doesn’t provide jobs.
Darkness. My agony is darkness.
The people who live in unemployment.

What is this happening all around me?
Because we can’t work it out,
It’s easier for us to lose ourselves in dope poetry.
What is the meaning of these complicated signs?
What does this mean? What does this mean?
Ah, inside spaced out,
Face covered in blood
Looks like the moon.

Why do we have to put up with this life?
A person has the right to a medical degree,
Is regarded as an educated person,
Without any test of their understanding of justice.
And if tyranny runs rampant,
They don’t utter a word,
Their job is just to give people needles.

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

We’re inside a kaleidoscope
That is magic and inscrutable.
We are inside a prison of fog that befuddles.
Our hands reach out searching for something to grab onto.
And if we miss,
We hit and claw –
at thin air.

We are the stammering generation.
Who are babied by the bastard generation.
Life force has been replaced by avarice.
Enlightenment has been replaced by repression.
We are the dangerous generation.

Penjambon, Jakarta
23 June, 1977

 


Ode to Youth (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

A 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 under the surface of the ocean.

***

We have to stop buying foreign formulas.
Textbooks can only give methods,
But we ourselves have to formulate our situation.
We have to come onto the streets
Go into the villages
See for ourselves every 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


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 general election