Jogging in Jakarta

by Toeti Heraty

Walking at dawn through the city
without a recent map seems strange.
The streets have been renamed until
all the dead heroes have been used up;
roads, alleyways, streets
are commands and unfulfilled promises
incisions into the heart;
the city's streets on my old discoloured map
are lonely.

Yes
the streets are still empty of traffic.
People hurry along, eager
to rid themselves of the dead weights they're carrying.
Mimosa flowers are trampled, scattered,
their fragrance dispersed with the dew.
Now
the city wakes up to a brightening day
street lights suddenly pale
the odd anarchic car speeds in violation
of road signs and regulations.

Get out of the way -
here is a trishaw loaded with vegetables
feet pedalling urgently
to catch the morning market customers.
Look -
on the pavement at the junction, bananas and sweet potatoes
are being fried for the construction workers
who squat and murmur
‘development is rapid, accelerating, sustained'
as long as there's a kick-back.

The city's cleanliness is guaranteed: cigarette stubs
are picked up carefully, none left behind,
by the basket-carrying brigade
shades, silhouettes sticking close to the trees,
rubbish dumps and open drains
eyes fixed on the ground, expertly
picking up stubs with makeshift tweezers.

It will be broad daylight any moment, traffic relentless,
driven by the demands of work. The forsaken map
between the National Monument, the Fountain, the bridges
towards Kebayoran and Kuningan,
is tattered, like an aged heart with dark passages
where the flow is blocked, then stops.

Karet, Menteng, Pulo, Tanah Kusir . . . whatever happens
may I be laid to rest - may it never come to the point of being
buried standing up, because land for graves has become so scarce.
But,
more worrying still,
suppose for whatever reason one is not buried in Jakarta
and in the morning, or at some other time
the nostalgic spirits come looking, searching
and do not recognise the city -
where is that abandoned map
with its markings, scribbles, crossings out,
map of the injuries of life?

1980

The literal translation of this poem was made by Ulrich Kratz

The final translated version of the poem is by Carole Satyamurti

Comments

  1. May 13th, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    ching chong says:

    subtle and fascinating. thank you

  2. February 13th, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    ras says:

    I could not really understand your poem, but I think this poem is really interesting. You compared Jakarta in the past and Jakarta nowadays. Hopes there would still be land for three there since flood happen commonly there

  3. August 7th, 2012 at 11:07 am

    Babu Chandran says:

    Very good.The poem touched my heart even though I am an expat who comes here once in while.Though it was written about two decades back the contents are still relevent today.