(1998-2000)

Love Letter

i decided on a pretty act of betrayal,
when i set out to satisfy a simple desire.
my breath was like a wave on the beach
pounding against arrogant rocks.
as soft as truth itself.

i decided to enjoy it. i scrubbed away
my doubt and uncertainty about love.
but sometimes awareness is ugly,
even when it pretends to be pure.
and awareness showed me too
how fierce disappointment can be.

jakarta, 1998


Episode from a Pop Serial

i talk of love with one breast exposed,
wearing a micro-miniskirt slit up the front,
and an insistent, intoxicating gaze
which attacks your stupid mind every day
as you listen to the news: public secrets
about human deceit ...
then, before the censor intervenes,
you laugh at yourself
and your own dirty mind.

now, strange music
separates one scene from another
as slender fingers scratch away at your conscience:
suddenly, from some unknown room
your children scream
because their favorite cartoon
has not been relayed
to the provinces. as they leave
they see their mother naked,
covered with ants and termites,
the ones you hide in your brain

enjoy yourself. in the same way
that we made love in a secret room
where no one could spy on us through a hole in the wall.
free and easy. unconcerned about footsteps near the door, or the neighbours gossiping about politics.

life is simpler than politics.
this is about broken families,
with expensive houses, living in luxury,
and conflict based around market values.
the price of advertising, and top ratings.

the rest is pretty faces and bare breasts.

enjoy it in the same way
you would sit near the buffet at a party.
undisturbed by the squeaking stage
and the noisy music. forget about
the studies of terrible poverty.

life is less complicated than poverty.
this simply turns nonsense
into legends.

you look for a place
in the open rooms
where there are no more secrets worth saving.
as you stand, you realise
that if you tried to cry
something would have to be done to turn your grief
into yet another form of entertainment.

february, 1998

 

The City of Quarrels

the cheap hotel is located in a lane where the rats live.
when i enter, no peaceful feeling awaits me, no dreams,
no pleasant sleep.
strange thoughts crowd together between the sense of weariness
and the scribbled dirty words on the shabby walls.
(now and then i recall the small transgressions of half beautiful women —still young enough —with their ordinary families
waiting for them at home).
i have left the happiness of my tranquil home
and turned my back on tiny convictions about true love
—for this small pleasure.

in my purse i carry a picture of my children
and a faded family photograph.
i think of the simple dreams of the people
living in the suburbs around me.

i don’t think the town is too bad at all: life goes on
between the messages sinners send to each other. you too
have somewhere where you can lie and commit your acts
of petty theft. sometimes there are many reasons to steal,
to kill, to do whatever — and the shops are full
of text-books and old calendars, side by side
with rows of posters and last year’s almanacs.

the city is not too bad. you can be a hero here
or a criminal.
you don’t need to dress up.
life is very simple
— it is better not to dream.

jakarta, 1999

 

Secret Sex Telegrams

i sent you telegrams of desire, some powerful current flowed to the brain,
somehow, i searched for love in one explosion after another.
i found one disappointment after another.

i sent thundreds of tiny screams into the closed waves.
they beat against the walls and my doubts. i gave you
millions of uncertain kisses. fire flowed from my closed eyes.

i sent you a sheaf of telegrams of love: in my sweat
and wild breathing. all that remained was a row of unspoken sentences
and bubble upon bubble of poisonous hatred.
then i wrote a disgustingly obscene story
about a gentle rabbit dressed in flesh
and the passage of “the man with the golden gun”.
i sent it to the scene of the most stupid sex possible.

why should you curse this tiny pleasure. especially as you hide
the barking of dogs and the shrill whinny of horses
between the pages of your scriptures
and in the graffiti written on the walls of your temples.

rest in my crotch, little man.
before you curse a corner of your cold mirror
before i hunt you down: before i kill you
with my arrow soaked in the poison of hundreds of snakes.
then, with a flick of my finger, throw your body
into the smiling hole of my most stupid pleasure.

february, 2000

A Song on a Small Boat

as if i were alone in a small boat
i rock back and forth on the tiny waves in my body.
while i sleep i dream of a prince in a shining robe
his flowing hair filled with a thousand dishonest breaths.
his long brave sword dazzles my eyes.
i blow the trumpet of my passion and play songs from a far-off land.
waiting sadly. urgently wanting something i do not know.
how lonely and false are all my dreams

as if i were alone on a small boat
i lie awake. my breathing is irregular. i am searching for
a thousand names and addresses. a million sites and a billion viruses.
volumes of obscene stories and revolting messages from lovers to each other.

i am alone. like a painting of a woman, sitting in front of a window,
staring at the blue sea on the horison. and holding back
the storms and the waves which smash against the coral reefs.

february, 2000

 

The Woman who Sinned

the woman bears her own sin. it is as light as a hidden
scream: she runs among a herd of deer
fleeing from a pack of wolves.
you write of black nightmares, settling on the shadows of a wall
reflecting absolutely nothing.

the woman writes of sins which cannot be translated.
she writes bitter secret poems hidden in the sweep of the violin
then makes a dark mysterious indian dancer stamp her foot down hard.

a flock of men crawl across her belly
measuring the sweaty effort of their ascent
before they thrust their fists
into the air. and puff out their empty chests:
their stinking mouths spew out thousands of maggots and caterpillars.

the woman builds heaven in a pool of tears.
she shapes history’s river: a century long.

february, 2000

 

The Woman I Call “Ibu, Mother”

i have called her “ibu” down through the ages
ibu works in the fields, dressed in a traditional blouse,
century after century planting seed, weeding and harvesting
i don’t understand why ibu never rebels
why ibu never complains when she is sick
why ibu never struggles to be free

ibu never reads books
ibu never watches advertisements for things which cost money
ibu never stands outside fancy halls
ibu never takes part in political demonstrations

ibu scatters fertiliser over her fields
ibu spreads the seed and harvests in silence

i have called her “lonely ibu” down through the ages
ibu spells out her dumb, empty groans
and reads legends of men with lust stamped on their pricks

ibu never weeps when she is disappointed
ibu accepts willingly whatever comes
ibu’s lap is warm and ten Rahwanas hunt her down

i call her “ibu”
ibu desires only Rama and he always rejects her.
the fire tests her purity, ibu suffers for his sake.

i have called her “ibu” one century after another
ibu is alone, ibu weeps

waiting for the eternal empty seeds to grow into life.
wild grass and small hills
covered with dry weeds. i call her “ibu”,
ibu serves her family common spinach,
cooks yams for a hundred hungry children
and relieves their thirst with the perfume of her sweat

i call her “ibu”
ibu reflects the storms, one season after another,
ibu measures the fields, one hectar after another,
ibu is the wisdom of the shady gardens

i weep to see a thousand men
endlessly raping me

march, 2000

 

The Legend of the Owl and the Moon

is that your lover’s face? hanging lonely in the sky
sad and weeping year after year: walking through
the threads of a thousand overcast legends.

alone there, playing with the children
a long time ago. combing the grass and bamboo. smelling
the mountains and scattered villages.

behind the pages of the story: a woman,
her face phosphorescent, reflected in a lake
bruised by solitude. wallowing in the mud
cast by sudden, unavoidable old age.

woman, what are you searching for in your strange loss?
why do you record your pain and blood, when each story
only lasts a little while.

why don’t you scream and resist this arrogance.
there is no virtue in your modest surrender.

fetch your bayonet, and castrate all the men who oppress you
— in a single whisper, kill them all!
then throw them away as if they were trash!

2000

Wedding Diary

when i married you, i never promised to be faithful.
in fact, you agreed to be my slave.
i built my world on hills of rock
and broad plains covered with weeds.
you plowed the fields to make them fertile
i harvested the crop with each heaving breath.
i raised thousands of wild beasts. i made them soldiers
so they could guard you and hunt you down.
i planted bamboo to make spears and knives

run as far as your man’s feet can carry you, husband!
hide between your mother’s thighs.
study the movements of my body and sow your seed
wisely: teach me how to shape the walls
in my house without doors. imprison my surrender
which you read as you please.

but i did not marry you to be faithful.
i agreed to fight on each battlefield.
i became the leader of my pack of wild animals
— they are eager to see you
laid out on the breakfast table.

let me embrace you now,
before i finally satisfy
my hunger!

2000

Elegy

i let the wild plants flourish
in the peat of my body. season after season
of desire. the leaves and grass tremble
at your touch, waiting the sudden
thrust, which always comes unannounced.
my breathing changes: measuring my waiting.

hundreds of years end in the countless seconds
of my screams. i long for one brief death
after another. i do not want to be conscious,
the world is as white as a field of cotton.

you look stupid, like some foolish insect,
wrapped in froth by its victim.
i must stab you, finish you off.
it is time to get rid of the old myths.
to replace them with the creaking of the table
and the slam of the door. to write other poems
with new words. to create new myths.
to give you a different history.

2000

A Letter for Nadia

the woman has big breasts, white as alabaster.
she gazes at the sea and allows her body to be touched
by the sun. her flat belly is exposed to the wealth of the world
poured out on her through the sand and the foam.
her hair spreads like a field of rice and golden grass.
fish hide between her wild kisses.

Nadia, after you left Kuta,
i read about you on the backs of crabs
and the shells on the beach. the sea wrote no final chapter
to your life. i refused to accept the story told
in that dark dark house. you left the windows of your past
wide open. in bali you spread out
beaches of your own, and
the breath of your foreign love.

i read your letters, sent from countries millions of leagues away.
the seconds flash by. there is no way i can find entry, no way
i can meet you, in the spaces in your breathing.

but i can see
the man who raped you
writhing
on the sharp tip of your knife.

2000

A Letter for Jennifer

you did not want to leave the tropical breezes.
the gentle air and the smell of earth after the rain
which used to meet you in the early morning.
you hung your breath on the drops of dew as they sheltered
from the winds of the day. while your feet stamped out the rhythm of the gamelan and its music.

your blond hair was like sunlight diffused through the green leaves of the bamboos, spreading memories from down the years.
time itself never looks back. you suddenly remembered
a series of ambitions still needing to be satisfied.
some unfinished love. or some unfinished hatred.
the leaves of your breath turned towards the cruel heat.

Jenni, i never read your letters now. i have no more tears left.
between your address at the top of the page
and your name at the end, i imagine your slender body in the grip of strong hungry hands. fighting to caress and conquer you.
you no longer hear the maskumbang and dolonan songs.
instead you dance to jazz and shrill negro voices.
sigh and snap your fingers. drown in the smell of vodka.
cigarette smoke and vaginal odours. dance in the noise and uncertainty. search for a history lost centuries ago.

i no longer read your letters, Jenni.
i don’t want to remember the old stories
told by the mysterious look in your eyes.
but neither can i escape my lack of understanding:
why did you need to lock yourself away
in order to be able to resolve your old problems
was this the only choice left in your life?

2000

A Letter for Julia

i wanted to hold the snow
which was as cold and soft as yourself.
i could still feel it in my bed.
you were so happy, dressed in your cape.
between the white rain and icy lake.

i have felt alone like that, Julia
standing in front of a shop window, staring at the jewellery.
two old women approached me, and asked where i came from.
i told them about a distant, poor country.
they edged away from me, knowing
that i was staying in a luxury hotel.
it was ironical, wasn’t it?

you told me about fields of wheat
and a mansion set in vast estate.
about living in a happy family
who ate together every morning and night.

i saw myself, alone,
counting the lines on my face as i imagined the difficulty
of my long path home, and how tired i would be.
my crowded and poor village.

i have consoled myself with your letters, Julia.
in them i see myself: a woman always hurrying
to grow old. searching and never finding.

2000

A Letter for Lorena

do you still have that knife?
don’t wash the blood off it. i can still hear
the soft moans i recorded in the pages
of the book of love we read late at night
while we were hunting, when our blood
boiled and spurted, and our breath grew ragged.

you enjoyed your lack of power.
it was like a fish you kept in your womb.
floundering under the powerful weight of desire
and the strange, gentle sighs from your open mouth.

do you still have that knife?
before you reach orgasm, thousands of women
will draw it from its sheath and plunge it deep
into any available body or heap of flesh.

2000

Sympathy Card

i wrote you a brief report
a story from an old almanac:
the face of the world
is battered and bruised.
the moon faints
in the arms of the sun.

who can help wondering
about the significance of
ancient loves? this
is the end of all dreams,
chaos and human confusion.
never ending conflict: meeting
in the waves and the river mouth,
sorrow and gushing tears.

i search through the darkness.
and find you sleeping
on a sampan: where am i?
the waves flatten the days,
time becomes shorter —
each disaster is closer
than the last.

2000

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