A Bilingual Poem: Perpaduan Sedunia (or Unity, worldwide)

Senja menjelang, cuaca baik

Anak bermain di tepi air

Those in West and East alike

Ought nothing but peace between us transpire

……

Raising a flag on wooden spike

Lads and lasses – unable to tire

Gunung sejarah kita bersama naik

Menjalin hubungan, berkongsi budaya


Translation of the Malay lines:

Senja menjelang, cuaca baik

Anak bermain di tepi air

With evening approaching, with good weather

The children play by the water

 

Gunung sejarah kita bersama naik

Menjalin hubungan, berkongsi budaya

Together we climb the mountain of history

Making connections, sharing culture


Author’s Notes

The Malay pantun consists of four lines, with the 1st rhyming with the 3rd and the 2nd rhyming with the 4th. This is the rhyming scheme for the above poem. In a pantun, the first two lines usually describe a scene, while the last two lines carry a message (usually moral). I wanted to splice the English language with the Malay language, using a Malay style of poetry, in order to convey the message of unity through both the words used and the form.

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Simple Contrivance

So simple – yet divine! Such is contrivance of the pen

The hollow spine of ink is light like bones of flitting wren

So simple – yet divine! Indeed, no sword could strike so true

As every drop of ink – and the words that gush right through

 

So humble – yet with honour! The deeds that pens have done

Atrocities were brought to light, laid bare under the sun

So humble – yet with honour! The lives that pens have touched

A moving quake that sprang from pages sweating hands did clutch

 

So common – yet unique! Reserved for none but human hand

No other creature could it wield so deftly in this land

So common – yet unique! Because among us even here

No two of us would wield the same, the tool we hold so dear

One Bitter Moment

The reach of one bitter moment!

Spreads like toxic radiation

Grips every cell in torment

A cruel abomination

The reach, oh the reach!

Alas, the one bitter moment –

Hate in a micro-expression

Perceived spite in faultless comment

Some thoughtlessness in rejection

The reach, oh the reach!

Though there are times one gains traction

Or crawls out from mental basement

All is spoilt by recollection

Of just one mere bitter moment

 

Companion piece here

One Perfect Day

The wonder of one perfect day!

It builds a beacon, lights your way

Across the angry sea of hate

It can the roiling tides abate

 

A perfect day, that is to say

When cheerful sun drops you a ray

When kindly moon comes, as a mate

When stars great shapes in sky create

 

The sea of life can sometimes sate

Though what it gives often comes late

And when the tides sweep you astray

Then just recall one perfect day

 

Companion piece here

The Greatest Act of Love

It is the greatest act of love

To share with one the words

You’ve been ignited by

To gift to them the same fire

 

It is the greatest act of love

To share the words that touch

And shake the base of your ego

So they may shake another’s

 

It is the greatest act of love

To share good words indeed

But this sharing oft turns sour when

One gives but never receives

 

On Loneliness

Loneliness is a drug. The first time you get a hit it is to stave off the sting of betrayal. It’s a distraction, an alternative pain. It’s a chilly breeze on a sweltering earth, a chunk of quiet in an ocean of sounds. It’s the lesser of two evils and the first time, it seems like a solution.

You take it a second time, a third, and soon it begins to consume you. It eats at your heart and causes these tiny, sharp pains that no doctor in the world could possibly diagnose and no one but you could accurately describe. It traps breath in your lungs like a bung in a brittle test tube. It closes up your throat. The side-effects overshadow the disease and you think: fuck, maybe I shouldn’t have taken this off-prescription.

But you can’t stop. Loneliness shows up in places where it shouldn’t be. It tails you when you’re laughing with friends, it hugs your leg under the table at reunion dinners with family, and when you finally find someone who sees you for you, who becomes your analgesic, who holds your hand against the tides and storms and the prospect of nuclear warfare? Loneliness will be there, ice-cold fingers threading through your other hand.

Loneliness is a drug. It occupies the same awkward position between the lines of bad and good – but is less controversial for the sole reason that few publicly acknowledge it as such. It’s always something “you can avoid” by “going out more” or if you “stop being so shy” or “are more confident”. Our culture touts its success stories of people “coming out of their shells”: sugar-coated high-school flicks written by corporations or young adult fiction that disguises lack of development with copious reviews and hype. But most people never escape the trap.

And most people do not like to think about it.