Tag Archives: Student Demonstrations

Poem on Hands

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 journey 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.

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Seminar Kesusastraan Tutup Pekan DIKSATRASIA

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