Joko Pinurbo

Here are some of the translated poems of Indonesian poet Joko Pinurbo.

For the Indonesian version, click here.

ON THE WAY

On the way between the bedroom and the bathroom

We met after waiting for each other long.

She came back from bath, I was going to bath.

Her steps suddenly stopped, her sight hesitated

And I was astonished between nervous and crave.

“Hi, how are you?” we said in chorus.

We bumped into each other, hugging under faint lights.

It was midnight. The house was like a grave.

Dogs were barking. Clock was trembling, terrified.

“Don’t go to the bathroom. You’ll be skinned there.

Follow me to the bedroom. Your pain I will devour.”

“But the bedroom has fallen apart. You will be ruined there.

Join me cruising to the bathroom. Your pain I will devour.”

We were squabbling like foes wanting to beat the other.

“You bastard. I waited long in the bedroom,

you were having great time meditating in the bathroom.”

“Damn you. I waited long in the bathroom,

you were having great time crouching in the bedroom.”

“What if we wrestle in the bedroom?”

“It’s more fun to fight in the bathroom.”

On the way between the bedroom and the bathroom

We did not know who would die first.

(2001)

OR

When I was about to enter the bathroom, from behind the door

a pretty lady in white suddenly appeared

thrusting a knife to my throat.

“Love or life?” she threatened.

“Give me a chance to bath first, Lady,”

I begged her, “to cleanse myself from sin.

Then, you can rape me.”

After I took bath, the lady vanished.

She’s nowhere to see. I came back anxious:

Could she be waiting on the way to ambush me?

What sin did I commit? I never hurt a woman

except when I was born.

When I was about to enter the bedroom, from behind the door

a bald lady in white suddenly appeared

thrusting a knife to my throat.

“Rape or life?” she threatened.

I panicked, I replied randomly, “I choose OR!”

She cackled. “You’re smart,” she said. Then

She kissed my neck and said, “Sleep tight,

my joy and sorrow. I will return to your dreams.”

(2001)

LAY EGGS

With a lot of struggles, finally I

could lay egg. It came out safe,

pitch black.

I am a farmer: everyday

I breed words, and I have not found the word

that could say us.

The word I was looking for, they said, was inside this egg.

I sat on my egg on the bed of words that long had not

given birth to words. I sat on it every night

until I was feverish and my mouth full of babble.

When I sit on my egg, it quietly

jumps, springs on the floor,

then slowly rolls over to the toilet,

and when it almost plunges into the drain

I quickly snatch it and bring it back to the bed.

Where’s my egg? Suddenly a lot of people felt

having lost their egg and thought I stole it

from their bed.

Ah, the egg of words, the egg of woes, finally you hatch.

You bulge, hatch, spill blood.

That’s not my egg! They said.

(2001)

EID HOMECOMING

This May I will come over to my house.

As Father said, “Grandma is missing you, come home!”

Time is so plain and simple sometimes:

Mother was putting dusk on the window.

Grandfather was pouring rain in the yard.

Father was picking me up at some station.

Who’s in the bathroom?

Children were singing, blaring.

Grandmother is dying.

Her body laid peacefully in the pray room,

her cute favorite dolls standing next to her.

“Hey, our bastard is home!” said the lion doll

who still looked sturdy, and she only shivered

when I stroke her hair.

Father had not yet come, while the taxi

that picked me up was waiting by the door.

Farewell, Grandma, goodbye everybody.

Take care of yourself. My regards to beloved father.

On the way to the station I saw father

looking around in the rickshaw, his face

looked older; the rickshaw drove in great haste.

From the taxi’s window I waved at father,

I kissed my palm once, I waved;

he also kissed his palm then waved at me

advising me to be safe in the trip.

So plain and simple, that I did not realize

drops of time were shed off my eyes.

“Your late grandmother took

this taxi yesterday,” said the quiet driver,

who turned out to be my ex-teacher.

(2001)

THE LAST PASSENGER

For Joni Ariadinata

 

Every time I go to my hometown, I always meet the rickshaw puller

who stands by under that banyan tree and ask him

To take me to the places I like.

I don’t know why I really like roaming with his rickshaw.

Maybe because the pedaling is smooth, so the pace is steady.

That night I asked him to take me to a cemetery.

I would strew flowers on the grave of ancestor.

The grave’s location was quite far and I worried that the rickshaw puller

Would be exhausted, but the old man said relax relax.

All the way the rickshaw puller kept telling stories

about his children who travelled to Jakarta

and now thankfully have been successful.

They were busy sought by money and came home only occasionally.

Even if they did, they might not sleep at home

as they were busy with this and that, including seeking loan

for transport fare to go back to the capital.

Only halfway, he was already losing his breath,

his cough bombarded, his head was spinning,

poor him. “Let me pedal, Sir.

You just sit properly, pretending you’re the passenger.”

I put myself out pedaling the old rickshaw to the cemetery,

while the rickshaw puller was sleeping comfortably, maybe even

dreaming, in his own rickshaw.

Reaching the cemetery, I yelled, “Come on, wake up, Sir!”

but the passenger master was just still, even slept more deeply.

I did not know whether I would strew the flowers I brought

on my ancestor’s grave or over the dead body

of the lonely rickshaw puller.

(2002)

MIDNIGHT PHONE CALL

The phone was ringing persistently, I let it.

I had received the call many times and asked

“Who’s speaking?” the reply was only “Who’s this?”

There was a phone call, long and loud,

inside my chest.

“Who’s this, calling in the middle of the night?

Disturbing people.”

“It’s mother, my child. How are you?”

“Mother! Where are you?”

“In here.”

“Inside the phone?”

“Inside your pain.”

Ah, it seems my sleep would be tight.

Tonight my pain will sleep tight.

(2004)

IN OTHER WORDS

Arriving at the railway station, I instantly took a motorbike-taxi.

Maybe it’s good luck, maybe it’s bad luck, I got

a motorbike-taxi rider who, gosh, was my school history teacher.

“Oh, the master from Jakarta comes back to hometown,”

he said. I was embarrassed and felt awkward.

“You don’t mind taking me to my house?”

It was very comfortable being taken home by him

in no time the motorbike stopped in front of my house.

Ah, I wanted to give him some remarkable amount.

Not my luck. I had not opened my wallet, he already

excused himself and vanished just like that.

In the terrace Father was reading the newspaper attentively.

The newspaper looked so tired being reach by him that the letters

came off and fell to the ground, scattered on the yard.

Out of the clear blue sky, Father suddenly

stood up and shouted at me, “In other words,

you will never be able to pay your teacher.”

(2004)

NEW YEAR’S TRUMPET

Mother and I walked around down town

to celebrate on new year’s eve.

Father preferred staying at home alone

as he had to accompany the calendar

in its last moments.

Ay, I found a purple trumpet

lying on the side of the street.

I picked it up

and cleaned it with the bottom of my shirt.

I blew it repeatedly, yet it didn’t make a sound.

Why this trumpet is mute, Mother?

Maybe because it’s made of calendar paper, my child.

(2006)

Translated by Indah Lestari

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