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Worshipping in Single Sentences

i walk a lonely path as the call to prayer
hangs all around me. i am looking for a church
with no door.god clings to the scriptures i cannot read.
in the shady forest of my faith, I search
for a song I can sing, to the accompaniment
of the tambourine.morning. the time for prayer is over.
i am looking for a church
in the confusion of voices.the god i embrace
has built his house
out of words.1996

Half Hearted Worship

i put my heart on the dinner table.
it was marinated in blood, my whole life
long. my soul flows through my prayers
each day.gradually i have learned
that all god gives me
is sunrise
and, let me place my heart
in the wineglass. my life and death
are in the fingers playing with the fork:
creating strange music
in each “amen”.1996.

The Mass that Lasted All Day

we are tired. it has been a long journey
to the cross-roads of history. counting the past,
calculating the future. all the sins we have committed
lie squeezed together in our photo album. fighting
among the psalms and prayers. and we still have not decided
whether we should keep going, or stop
and go home again.the falling words turn into moans. conversations squeezed out
from sighs. stale sweat and blood join
to sour your hard thirst. you hear my confession
as it hardens between sleep and nightmares.
bodies freeze between the altars and the pews.
between the psalms and the pouring of the wine.
on the other side of dreams, springs and rivers
die of their own accord. i extinguish the light.the room is dark. i grope for the blind man’s cane.
my thoughts glow. the path twists along alleys
and lost seasons. i light a candle in my heart.
i don’t care if it burns all the texts and hymns
which i have forgotten to put away.1992

Worship among the Weeds

i bury torn hopes in the lonely storms
of my soul. on a hill covered with weeds.
across the river: harsh grass and empty huts.i am entranced: spelling out the hasty words
in a prayer that has no “amen”i open the scriptures: they are written in a language
i cannot read. i bury my faith in silent worship,
humming page after page of the psalms.i have come on a pilgrimage, to gaze
on my own body, which lies frozen
in the grip of emptiness.1996

The Cathedral, One Night

the sparrows are sleeping. i have touched
their nests. my song disturbs
their long dreams. with them,
i sing a peaceful litany.whispers fill their silent prayers.
the sparrows will shut
the calm doors of their nests.and i will forget to say “amen”,
because their prayers
will never be completed.1996

A Prayer for the Middle Ages

i found your robe, torn by time.
there were books on the shelf,
waiting to be read.i prayed at the altar:
            candles shone.
i searched for my own face,
            covered with wounds.we came on a pilgrimage,
            reciting prayers.
i wrote poems
of love that failed.god,
            where is the mystery
which is not incarnate in words?
            i want to write it
            in my burning heart.i looked for your robe:
            and found it thrown on the floor
between the altar
            and the long wooden pews.i poured the wine:
            the prayers died.1996

A Hundred Years of Prayer   

i enter the house whose floor
is made of psalms and prayers.i enter the house: one wall,
then another.i know: the room
is filled with echoes,
it is eternal –
it is heaven.i look for the door
which will show me the world
and everyday reality.1996

Unfinished Verses

the space between You and i is a thin
impenetrable piece of silk. unfinished verses
reach out to You, break through the years,
fly past the sun. always cut short by an “amen”,
oh Lord. suddenly we feel no need to overcome
the distance between us. desire endlessly searches
for  You in the dusty old books. Your hand touches
my lonely soul. i recognise You, wrapped
in long centuries. life never stands still.
i recognise You, alone in a picture of the sea.
alone on a shipwrecked boat. calmly walking on the sea
towards me. like the waves breaking on a reef.
caressing my soul as it hardens in bitter silence.
the space between us is the reef – i meditate inside it
and the roar of the sea reaches down to where i am.
until I am only an “amen” at the end of my prayers.Yogya, 1989

Noah’s Ark

the arc Noah left is lost
in my dreams: seeds ready
to sprout, broken histories
become shoots bearing antagonisms
one after another. tangled threads
with ends I can never which land can we return? houses
and disasters, tears and sensitivities,
scattered signsthe  arc Noah left is lost
in my dreams: signs
continually changing into
sad poems, full of notes
no one can sing.1994 

Sailing on Noah’s Ark

i like to sleep on noah’s ark.
rocking on the waves formed by words
and legends. i am always happy
in my dreams.alone among the seeds. counting the hours
and days between suffering and disaster.
i lie on the deck, with my bags full
of hope and trust.if i can, i will spitefully burn the map,
for no reason at all. i will gather hope
from my dreams of falling olive leaves.1996 

Sea Poem, 1      

sometimes i want to look at the sea
closer than the coral itself. not confined
by the whitening waves. a seagull flies overhead:
“i want to see your jagged wounds!”i want to measure, wound by wound,
the distance the seagull flies across the sea.sometimes i want to believe that the broad sea
cannot divide love, despite time and age.sometimes i want to dive deep down into the ocean.
i want to forget the limitations
which i have never understood.1987

Sea Poem, 2

sometimes i want to listen to the silence of the waves.
separate from the roar of the sea pushing them
to the shore. perhaps i will find there
the essence of silence. separate
from the secret framework of meanings
encoded in the world.sometimes i want to smell the sea:
i want to believe that in the middle of the noise
there is some perfect meaning.1987

Beach Landscape

beyond the waves of your soul:
sky and seagulls are one.sailors on a boat,
their eyes full of fish.beaches covered with coral,
dead bodies, and moss.thunder and fear, you bewitch
the sky, and life’s debris.beyond the waves of your soul,
sky and seagulls carry
sad letters. loneliness
indifferent to spirit. loneliness
indifferent to spirit.on the beach: the shell
of a crab …1992


before we left on the bus,
you ordered an ice cream.
i hadn’t expected
            you to melt.but i read the tears
            in your eyes:
you were saying goodbye
i tried to stop you
when everything flowed
            like a river.i was alone
            and lonely,
a fisherman who always
            arrived too late
to grieve for the fish
            on the plate.

A Picture of a Bird

there is only a cage. nothing flutters,
nothing sings. empty houses.
i released the bird i had caught
into the rain, the rest of my life
opened its wings, shook off the dust,
and flew away. i sent it away!but not to be hurt. even though
it must fly vast distances, across
passion and indifference. not
to be hurt. perhaps across
a group of islands, before reaching
death’s border. fly!only a cage in my soul. where nothing flutters,
nothing sings, waiting, and a house
ready for You. i will not let you go,
my beloved!1988

A Painting of Time

the door is as old as i am. history and time
pass each other when it opens. you don’t need to knock
when you want to go inside. though you should ask
why it is locked when the car comes
to fetch you. childish longings outside
blur the mysterious loneliness. speak
in a thousand silent tongues.what language should i use in my poems?
my forehead is dumb. the noise of my soul
flows into noisy children’s voices.
but the door remains shut. time and age
slip away from my life. nothing opens.yogya, 1988


Love Poem

it is time to make love. the sun and the seasons
are no longer at odds with each other. there are flowers,
butterflies, and the grass is growing tall.we have grown old reciting our prayers. the season
to mourn the dead has suddenly come.the corpses are buried deep. the mourners
have returned home. the land is vast
and lonely.the thick history books, covered with dust,
are never shut. read the sentences
scratched into the earth by the wind.
ancient inscriptions on the rocks.
hands have grown weary
recording old, you tell me,
longs for eternal,
yet transitory,

Dead Poem

after i released your breath into strange prayers,
i felt even more alone. the window was open,
nature was open, everything across the grass
seemed strange. i released your breath
into my silent prayers.the sun slipped off its stem
and shone through years. the sun flowed
in your blood. i dug a hole
to let it pass through death’s door.Yogya, 1988

Unfinished Poem

there is no end to the tears
of the clouds
between the sea and the sun.i wait in the rice fields,
while the frogs and the insects
sing.i write poetry
with the farmer’s tears
as they wait for the harvest,
and the season’s promise.suddenly you become the verses
i read in church
and scatter along the road.i am still looking for the truth
of a poem
which has not yet been written.1989

The Song of the Soul  

this is the song of my soul.
the sounds of the wind
as the seasons change:
the snow, leaves becoming hard,
the branches rigid, birds
dying in the cold.let me drift with the sound
            of the river flowing
from the land of dreams, listening
to the waves moan as they beat
against a coral reef, until i fall asleep
with the small waves fading
on the shore.
my heart will endlessly
play tunes on a guitar
to comfort you.Semarang 1990

A Poem that was Never Written

i have felt day after day grow stale. nothing
provoked me to remember what happened.
the lines on the page were ready – for the poem
which was never minute after another imprisoned me. until
i could no longer open the door. i was like
an animal in the zoo.“go home, straight away! someone has opened
the doors and the windows”, you whispered.
like a maggot, I could only wriggle
inside the wound. moving my smooth body
this way and that, cleansing the blood and pus
from the pain of life.because, the old man would never grow tired
of weaving his cocoon, his place of meditation!
but, I whispered, how can one escape
from this temporal room, bound on all sides
by mortality?Semarang, 1990

I am Pregnant with an Unmoving Poem

i created a small heaven in my womb.
its inhabitant was an untitled poem,
with no rhythm or rhyme. it rocked back and forth
as the children sang to it, waiting
for their tiny angel.they hummed, the letters
were only symbols for words
no one could spell. we wove it for years,
gave life to its long journey. soon
it hummed to itself, when the others
were too tired to remember it

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