Before Dawn – Sapardi Djoko Damano
I read a book of poetry after a long time. The challenge in any poetry translation is if the poetry can survive what can be a brutal translation. It is to the credit of the poet and the translator that some of Damano’s poetry (written originally in Bahasa Indonesia) still manages to shine through. Two things stand out for me (i) the vivid imagery of capturing everyday scenes of life and (ii) the profound reflection on old age and death. Two samples to illustrate my point: “I ordered waving grasses and wild flowers – I don’t know what you ordered. I ordered river stones on a bed of swirling rapids…” or “He doesn’t like talking about his glasses, which he sometimes forgets where he’s placed, about his silver hair, about his empty house, no longer occupied by wife or children, about the bad weather that causes him to sneeze…” There are many nuggets of the kind in the book. If nothing else, the book did whet my appetite for both – poetry and Indonesian literature. Perhaps poetry is not meant to be read like a novel – page after page till it’s over. It should be read in small doses, – one or two poems before going to bed.
Recommendation: Read the original if you can. Otherwise, don’t bother.
I asked myself,
Is it the curly curls, the beautiful eyes, the smooth throat, the nibbly earlobes…
Is it the silky voice, the infectious laughter, the ready with, the inimitable sense of humor…
Is it the vulnerability, the innocence, the charm, the evoking of a paternal instinct…
Is it the innate goodness, the moral strength, the consideration, the desire to do what is right..
And then I thought
Isn’t it enough
That I know
How many of us –
How many many
Spend lifetimes looking for that elusive
Her and him
And never reach there
Isn’t it enough
That I know
So why bother
Posted in Poetry Tagged beautiful eyes, eyes, innocence, laughter, Literature, love, poem, thought, us, voice, why, you
Tonight, I was flipping through my poems
– Each one a cherished memory,
Reminder of a tender moment
And then I thought
If all of that has ended
That I’ve lost the ability to love like that
The ability to feel like that
And if it was the end
It was then that you shook me from my reverie
Asking an inane question and smiling that trademark smile of yours
Which never fails to evoke one from me
You – my beautiful daughter
And I looked deep into your eyes
And thought that perhaps there had been an end
But there had also been a new beginning.
Posted in Poetry Tagged beautiful, beginning, cherished memory, daughter, deep, end, eyes, love, memory, moment, poem, smile, tender moment, thought, you
When the night is lonely
The music sweet…and of a time when we were together
Into the past
Those long telephone conversations
Where even the long silences were so so fulfilling.
When that uncontrollable laughter used to get at us.
The little barbs that we made at each other which amused us equally.
When the possessiveness for each other got funny.
A Tear forms slowly
Ever so slowly
At the corner of my eye
And rolls down my cheek.
And I pray to God
If that means
That what I remember so vividly
You do no remember at all.
Posted in Poetry Tagged god, laughter, memories, moments, music, past, poem, Poetry, remember, silence, slowly, tear, telephone, telephone conversations, uncontrollable laughter, wish
Oh, my dream!
I still dream of you
Of what it would have been like
To have you by my side eternally.
Not that I am unhappy in my present
But still, I do wonder
What it would have been
To have such exquisite beauty in my life
It didn’t happen
Wasn’t our destiny
We went our separate ways
And today – are as apart as two people can be
With our own separate joys, sorrows and dreams
And yet I still dream of you,
My unattainable beauty.
Sometimes in the night.
Sometimes in the day.
Posted in Poetry Tagged beauty, destiny, distance, dream, dreams, joys, life, people, poem, Poetry, remember, sorrows, us, wonder, you
I am not plain, you protested.
And the words remained with me.
The songs I played, the music I heard
The voices, the notes, the verses were all you
– echo of your voice
– facets of your being
And I had this overwhelming desire
To put pen to paper
And sketch you
To immortalize you
I drew the locks…the curls that you so harshly tie up at work.
I drew the smile which illuminates your face.
I drew the willowy tall frames.
But that is as far as I got
The words seeming so facetious.
I was disappointed
And wondered why I can’t play with words any longer.
And then the realizations dawned
And I smiled to myself
Because I remember
Am a silent lover.
A lover of silence.
Posted in Poetry Tagged desire, echo, lover, music, poem, Poetry, silence, sketch, smile, voices, words, Writing, you
You knock on my door
And tell me to follow you
It’s time, you say
Time to leave
I realize I need a few moments more
I want to see her at least once
To touch her and feel if she is real
I need to hear her laughter once more, see her smile light up the room once more.
I need to take her small hand in mine when she is sleeping…and thank God once more
I need to kiss my girl on the corner of her lips once more, to lie snug with her once more
I need to see how the tulip bulbs I planted in the fall come out this spring
And if the leaves of the trees will be prettier this fall
I need to visit countries, continents.
I need to see all this world has got to show me.
Oh, there is so much I need to do!
Can’t we wait a bit?
Come, let’s wait a bit.
A few moments more.
A few days more.
A few months more.
A few years more.
Posted in Poetry Tagged beautiful, days, fall, few, her, laughter, life, moments more, months, poem, Poetry, smile, spring, travel, wait, world, years