Basuki Gunawan

Translated by David Colmer

 

I fill the earth with my song
I stab mankind with my plea
for alms
a cup of hope
a bowl of love
because the land
where the sun’s lament is over
and the cock has stopped its crowing
is not far
the street is lonely
as a cemetery
but far from it
because this dying
is a guttersnipe
who taunts the passers-by
I fill the earth with my song
I stab mankind with my plea.

 

Kuisi bumi dengan laguku
kutikam manusia dengan pintaku
sekedar derma
secangkir harap
secawan kasih
sebab negeri
tempat matahari berhenti meratap
ayam jantan berhenti berkokok
sudah tak jauh lagi
jalanan sepi
seperti makam tapi
jauh dari situ
karena maut itu anak kolong
yang mengganggu orang lalu
kuisi bumi dengan laguku
kutikam manusia dengan pintaku.


I once knew a god
we played together
drinking cordial eating cake
now god is gone
did he run away?
I saw him in the treetops
a mist descended in search of god
then carried him up
to the stars
god is happy there
drinking cordial eating cake
but here the trees shed tears of blood
and curses rain from the sun
a thousand gods howl in the sky.

 

Aku pernah kenal satu tuhan
dulu kita sama-sama main
minum sirop makan kuwe
kini tuhan sudah pergi
apa dia lari?
kulihat dia di puncak pohon-pohon
kabut turun mencari tuhan
lalu ia diangkut ke atas
ke bintang-bintang
di sana tuhan senang
minum sirop makan kuwe
kini pohon-pohon nangis mengucur darah
matahari maki-maki tanpa akhir
seribu tuhan menderu di udara.


BELOVED

Yes I know
you are a bottomless sea
a place where silvery fish
satisfy their hunger with time and space
until only shells are scattered about.


KEKASIH

Tahu sudah aku
kau ini laut tanpa dasar
tempat ikan-ikan perak
muaskan lapar dengan waktu dan jarak
sampai tinggal cangkang bertebaran.


NIGHT BUTTERFLY

Your lips are soft and moist
like a doormat trodden
by a thousand joyous feet
rushing into the chamber of lust
whose walls are smothered with dust
only dust.

 

KUPU MALAM

Lembap bibirmu
seperti kesetan kaki di muka pintu
seribu tapak memijak
menjamah ria ruang kesenangan
dinding-dinding penuh debu
penuh debu.


It’s time
the moon is nodding off
in its blue chair  
let’s go
don’t look back
jackals are already devouring our tracks
filling the sky with footsteps and dust
making virgins tremble in lonely beds
awakening gales
hurry
before heaven closes its gate
before we shrivel to ash.

 

Sudah waktu kini
bulan mengantuk di kursi biru
mari kita pergi
jangan engkau berpaling lagi
serigala sudah mengoyak jejak kita
isi udara dengan derap dan debu
biar perawan bergetar di pembaringan sepi
angin-angin terbangun dari tidurnya
pacu
sebelum sorga menutup pintu
sebelum kita pudar menjadi abu.


BASUKI GUNAWAN (1929-2014) published 5 short stories and 12 poems in the magazine Konfrontasi in 1955-56. Even though his body of work is small, the works themselves are powerful and unforgettable.

DAVID COLMER is a multi-award-winning literary translator, mostly from Dutch into English. He told InterSastra that he would be translating Basuki Gunawan's poems at the BCLT Literary Translation Summer School Summit 2014. We're now publishing these poems here as part of our #OleholehSastra series.

These translations were first published in Modern Poetry in Translation (MPT) Spring 2016. The translator thanks Heri Lesmana Hardjo and Indrawati Gunawan for their help and advice, and acknowledges the German translations of W. A. Braasem and Janheinz Jahn published in Reis und Hahnenschrei, an anthology of Indonesian poetry, (1957) and Ulli Beier’s translations from the German published in the chapbook Only Dust (1969).