Tag Archives: Poverty

Poem for a Student Meeting

Poem for a Student Meeting

By W.S. Rendra

The sun rose this morning
Sniffed the smell of baby piss on the horizon,
Looked at 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 to bear witness, that we are gathered here
To investigate the current situation.

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?

The sun shall soon go down.
Night will arrive,
The geckos chatter on the wall
And the moon sail forth.
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 more.
Evermore the new day shall incarnate,
Our questions shall become a forest,
Transform into rivers,
And become the waves of an ocean.

Under this hot sun, we ask:
There are those who scream, and those who beat,
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.

The featured image is from 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 Manizer, Kisah Di Balik Tugu Tani: Patung Pahlawan, Banyak Ormas Menuduh Patung di Tugu Tani di Jakpus 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

Poem for a Cigar

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
Without 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 the problems of life.

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 has to 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 salon 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 provide methods,
But we ourselves have to formulate our condition.
We have to come out into the streets,
Go into the villages,
See for ourselves all the indicators
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 the problems of life.

ITB Bandung
19 August 1977


This version of Poem for a Cigar (Sajak Sebatang Lisong) comes from State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 12.

Three parties in the 1977 election - Poem for a Cigar
The three parties in Indonesia’s 1977 legislative election

Other work by W.S. Rendra