Monday, March 18, 2013

Little Mother

Where are you now little mother
where have you gone
are you floating about in the ether
are you feeling happy and strong?
where are you now my best mum
where can you be
When will you be sending a message to me?

Are you up in the clouds looking down
are you drifting on an airstream
just wandering around
are you waving at me madly
only I can't see
that you're already standing
right in front of me
Where are you now little mother?

Did you see me in the my kost room
getting the call
that you'd finally decided to leave us all
when my watch stopped dead in the middle of the night
was that you telling me you'd be alright
did you see my tears, my disbelief
knew you had to go
but did you have to leave
Where are you now little mother?

Did you watch me jump into a taxi to Glodok next day
to go to a Chinese temple to pray
in a klenteng full of smoke and incense
litte mother, did it make any sense
to pray to ceramic buddhas in that way
Where are you now litte mother?

And with some friends we prayed to Allah
and others back home doing mantra
did it make any difference
or was it just for us
to feel we were making some kind of fuss
'cos little mother you didn't care for religious stuff
like heavens and hells and all that guff
your life was a hell
you told us often enough
Have you left that hell behind now little mother?

And did you see me smsing my kids on the day
they waved your coffin slowly away
did you follow the hearse to the crematorium
or were you already far
far away, gone
But where to little mother?

And do you watch me in this Jakarta town
is that you following me around
as I ride in taxis, walk in the street
greeted by everyone I meet
hello mrs, hello mister
dari mana, where you from
please sit down, have a drink
you like our country, what you think?
Were you sitting with me then, little mother
as we compared notes with one another
and were you touched little mother, just like me
by their warmth and generousity?

And little mother, do you hear the morning call to prayer
as it  through the cool morning air
and the morning sellers as they come
loudly proclaiming to everyone
roti, roti, roti, roti, roti
dong dong dong, dong dong dong, dong dong, dong dong dong dong
dong dong dong, dong dong dong, dong dong, dong dong dong dong
ding ding ding, de ding ding ding
tok tok tok te tok tok tok
and still it's only 6 o'clock
the bubur man on his motorbike
like a frog croaking in the night
bubur ayam bubur, bubur ayam, bubur.
then all the women coming out
like Mary Magdelenes, so devout
their beauty framed by colours strong
as gracefully they glide along
and men on motos taking kids to school
can you see it little mother
Can you see it all?

And out into the macet, macet
to be carried away
on the sea of moving metal
as they do every day
working so hard for their meagre pay
and under the tall freeway pylons
tired mothers, sick babes in arms
tap at car windows, hopefully
to move someone with their mournful plea
can you help them little mother
Can you help them?

And so on and on, into the day
and everyone still finds time to pray
on and on, to the mall
where ibu ibu meet to tell all
as they swish about in luxury
safe from the seething human sea
do you see it little mother
Do you see?

Can you see the buses full
can you see the bajais spluttering
in the sky, tiny kites a-fluttering
litte boys hold tight the string
way down in the crowded kampung
as if to say, one day I will fly
fly away from this place
into a sky so free and spacious
just like you little mother
Just like you?

And when the sky turns a blazing red
and all good children are in bed
and when the night begins to fall
do you see them, do you see them all
all the night workers waking up
just in time for evening prayer
before they go to make a dollar in a crowded bar
entertaining bule flown in from afar
as they ride the sex world underground
where you can taste anything you please
Russian, Korean, Japanese
and satisfaction will be yours for sure
just leave your wallet at the door
did you watch them little mother
Did you watch them all?

Did you see the musos trundling home
from their late night hotel gigs
artists, writers, talking late
in crowded cafes on the street
pece lele, soto ayam
all night in the roadside warung
and catching my bluebird taxi home
were you with me little mother
as we took the tol again
how many miles have I travelled alone
speeding into a night that stretches so far
apartment buildings rising tall
from low tin house swamps with kerosene lamp
where breathing bodies find rest in a corner of damp
and the glittering lights of the mall never go out
promising, one day we can have it all
do you think so litte mother
Do you think so?

And did you see me shaking in my bed
when I thought the roof would come crashing on my head
as the sky cracked and groaned in an angry roar
and the wrath of the heavens started to pour
washing the sins of the city away
into drains and canals, like a glacier flow
taking with it every bit of plastic that will go
where does it all go little mother
Do you now know?

And did you come with me across the strait
arriving at the tinkling gate of the favorite Bali isle
did you fly above the crowded street
as the cremation procession wound its way
at the temple did you see, two bodies wrapped in white
elderly women of royalty, placed in majestic sarcophagi
the proud black bulls standing tall, as fires lit around their feet
began to lick and leap up high into the cloudy Ubud sky
and through the flames did you see their bodies appear
blackened skin and stringy hair
tough and stubborn, strong as leather
is this how they lived their lives together
and little mother, did your body burn like this
or was it over all to quick
with just a workman standing there
adjusting his crotch and scratching his hair
and in a jiffy you were done
into the grinder, here comes another one

I'm sorry little mother I wasn't there
to carry you all the way to the end
but never one for ceremony
I know you would have said
'heavens don't bother with any of that
for christsakes I'll be dead'

But that's the trick I can't quite get
'cos now you're gone
your presence seems stronger
is it true, little mother
is that you little mother?
the tiny kitten at my door
the finches on the window pane
who come to visit again and again
the butterflies in the sawa
I've never noticed them before
but I met a man who opened my eyes
just like you, to all the kupu kupu
are you that man?
how can that be?
but perhaps you sent this man to me
because he is enthralled, just like you
by birds and butterflies and all wild flowers
he can talk for hours and hours
and never misses a single beat
as he strides the paddies in gnarled bare feet
and as we walked
and as we talked
I started to see you everywhere
I realised you'd come back to earth
as quickly as you'd left us here
flitting about on every flower
as always was your wont
there you were in brilliant colours
patterns on your wings
dancing, prancing, in front of me
then disappearing on a whim
and I feel you mother
flapping on the wind
on every little puff of breeze that lands upon my skin 
your arms around me, little mother
your arms around me tight
I know you are a butterfly
flapping in the night
I know your life is over
just when it's begun
but then you roll back into your cocoon
and come back as another one
and you fill the air with butterflies of every single shade
and I feel you all around me
like the moment I was made
by you little mother
by you

Stay close, little mother
I'm here, little mother
be near, little mother
my strong little mother

kupu kupu

(c) Jan Cornall Jakarta 2006

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