the tendrils of memory punish me so harshly,
the tightness in my chest feels like being stabbed in the heart,
I burst into sobs
breaking the silence of regret,
while I know that you will not be arriving
to wipe away my tears,
the memory now cuts me to the core, my love
i console my sadness at sunset that is so fleeting
when night falls let my longing stay strong
till the next sunset when our meeting begets gazes
And that if God still takes pity
and eases my worry that’s reached the point of exhaustion.
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
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.
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.
I entrust myself
to the heart
I make ready a life
for the vibration
there nobility of thought
is but the final
the tenderest blessing
of all prayer
in this my small cell
on this tattered mat
as I behold the wooden shelf
buildings of an overcast civilization
having battled beneath the deceptive sun
I lay aside my thoughts
I lift up my heart
in Your hands.
Emha Ainun Nadjib. 99 untuk Tuhanku [99 For My God], Pustaka Bandung 1983