Welcome to the seventh and final installment of A World with a Thousand Doors—a multi-part collaboration with the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival to showcase previously untranslated contemporary Indonesian writing. This week, we feature three poems by award-winning Indonesian writer Cyntha Hariadi, translated by Asymptote’s Editor-at-Large for Indonesia, Norman Erikson Pasaribu.
We suggest reading installments one, two, three, four, five, and six of the series if you haven’t already. We also recommend the final reflection by Festival attendees Norman Erikson Pasaribu and Tiffany Tsao, Asymptote‘s Editor-at-Large for Australia.
they used to paw the sky, squeeze the clouds
they fought the wild crows, bargained with the gatekeeper of heaven
these hands—they took down the moon, put it here to light this bedroom
they tickled the sun, so it shone longer, brighter
now, they cave in every time I raise them up
they squeal in pain at the mere task of tying up my hair
sewn-up to this chest, they can only wait
for the saviour to stop its never-ending sob
Only a white bucket:
round, 15 cm in height, 30 cm in diameter
I fill it with water
full in just a short time
I lift you up
and make you sit inside
your legs bend
as if in a bowl
Six little plastic bowls
all in different colours
with holes under them, on the side
small holes, big holes
You take water, you pour water
you materialize an ocean
and I, a fish inside.
Marker and Paper
I wake up
where are you
who usually move from your room to my room
waiting for my eyes to open
after such a long night’s journey.
The ears catch a sound
of scratching on paper
soft, so soft, but stops and then goes silent
then swells, like a crazy violin
it rips through the ears
tears down the morning
which remains in repose.
Your mouth kisses the paper
your long hair sweeps over it
your index and middle finger pinch the marker
and you are at the wheel, pointing where it needs to go
as if all this is a car racing
you don’t look up at me
I’ve become air
so you can find you.
Cyntha Hariadi is an Indonesian writer of poetry and short fiction. A graduate of the New School for Social Research, her first book of poems, Ibu Mendulang Anak Berlari [Mother Feeds, Child Flees], won third prize in the 2015 Jakarta Arts Council Poetry Book Manuscript Competition. She also has a book of short fiction, Manifesto Flora [Flora’s Manifest], and is currently writing a novel.
Norman Erikson Pasaribu is an Indonesian writer, translator, and editor. Tiffany Tsao’s English translation of his first book of poems, Sergius Seeks Bacchus, received a PEN Translates Award and is forthcoming from Tilted Axis Press. This is his first published translation of an Indonesian literary work into English.
Read more translations from the Asymptote blog: