Jakarta and the Man in Motion

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 the city's streets on my discoloured map

are lonely. And there I see,

my father, riding his blue bicycle,

pauses to adjust the brakes.

Hovers in the equilibrium between the movement

and still. And still.

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.

He rides, the wind lapping at the edges of his jeans

like little ranginang.

Get out of the way - here comes 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 cluster.

He has journeyed across Earth his whole life.

His orbit around this planet: an act of devotion.

And in his pockets, he carried me,

to raise on this soil.

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.

We travelled a long way together,

even before my birth:

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,

and so,

even after his death

we will travel

even father.

And we will travel,

even farther.

 

This poem is about: 
Me
My family
My country
Guide that inspired this poem: 
Poetry Terms Demonstrated: 

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