Requiem for the Living
A jungle bolo
dropped and a young boy’s mother asked
where are you
You saw it, departure built a house.
And burned it at once.
It happened many years ago. It doesn’t really stop.
Disappearance, what there is
in what a land no longer has is an evocation.
The sound of one’s heart in a minefield.
You heard it. A friend. A dead man. A dead sister.
The young boy of your skin,
who told you he wanted to see
the beautiful day he was born.
Did you lament or did you want to say how brutal.
that the city had no idea how to host a life.
Shop mirrors caught no less than a passing of glance
to transit to another ride
to alienation. Somewhere
many people find just by walking.
You could not stay in one place, too.
You read a newspaper and someone’s begging
to see their first and only house.
You close your eyes and hear your mother asking,
where are you going?
You moved to another apartment.
And you are still the same. Colonized,
destroyed—it’s like the bones in one of your hands
were removed and you can’t find where they are.
At 3am you remember
one teaching of wealth: body is a property.
At 4am you remember what
an American soldier taught you: be polite
at all times.
You bow your head when blue eyes look at you.
You open the door because you don’t want to
be shot like the mother of your mother.
There is exactitude to call your mind a country
At 5 am the calendar on the wall bears the face
of your eldest brother.
The man who’d said he was forever free
and later on was found headless.
He says, generous animals will be slaughtered
this week and nobody is going to stop it.
Guns will be for good and everybody will be
He speaks and speaks and speaks
and speaks until sunrise, building the world
a map of those the day will lose.
spread out on an old junk newspaper, with a crucial part missing
—for Kartika Pratiwi
not the killing chant. not the killing field unrolled, extending from one’s mouth.
it might not have been understandable. shouldn’t you restore what happened then?
if fire, some people must’ve been there. if they’re shouting, help us believe
they’re dead: soeyanto, oslan, trisna, all the names you called
to remind a promise that it had to be a land, a diverse city,
but it couldn’t, a chinese
cemetery wasn’t quite such place.
the easiest way to accept what you know of the massacre is to leave it
in someone else’s dream.
after spitting on a yellow dog, bapak soeharto stirs his morning jamu,
asks if he has already left,
the man who went inside the house last night without permission,
the man who dug a part of the terracotta floor to bury his wound.
he answers himself by gazing over a high chair—something unseen sits there
each day, watching him put forgiveness and his photograph together
even if they clearly avoid each other.
today you’d like to be recognized and talk to him.
this is what you’d like to say:
i’m the man you burned. i will not ask why. the entire nation knows why.
three eastern brigades have lost count of their bullets since foreign is plenty.
even the air is a record as to how many outsiders are in the archipelago.
i can tell you each province that saw my shadow no different from the locals,
but where did you put me?
not museum in which the dead, in their appealingly noticeable silence, speak
of places, fragile as fossils, no one is allowed to touch.
not history since all regions there have been occupied
by heroes and their families and anyone who wants to appeal, to claim a little
land is too late.
not your hometown—what remains there is a lamentation,
but, like this banyan tree whose adventitious prop roots have made what resembles
a black house, anybody can get inside it.
it’s a trap according to a local legend.
whoever enters it will come out mad and injured.
unable to identify which his loss is and which is the world, a man
who needed temporary shelter saw it
and went inside.
perhaps he was wrong to do that
but he instantly recognized you, greeted, asked if you’ve already eaten.
a few others smiled at the reunion and went back to sleep
so they could continue farming under a tropical blue sky
or selling china-made merchandises in a market
where not once a preman roamed around.
you whispered something to him,
something no archive, not even the speaker of this poem would know,
and he hugged you tightly for hearing
that thing only the two of you could travel over.
he then said, if only anger is not waiting outside.