20 August, 2008

The Ballad of Kiai Banjar and Kalama

In the little wood near his lebak
He would notice the trembesi tree
That had amazed him with its height
As well as its noiseless majesty.
Yet one day amidst the drizzles
Homecoming from tending padi
Kiai Banjar of Tanjung Beringin
Brought down the handsome tree,
So sudden as the little sprinkles.

The planks he shaped with his hands,
Were tucked in neatly under his bed;
His wife Kalama did not understand
Whatever was in his husband’s head,
She but found him later bed ridden,
A devoted husband, father of seven,
Due to an illness that knew no cure.
Thus she gave him the best treatment
Some would’ve called a self-torture.

The six years’ stroke his husband had
Stopped all his agonies in this world.
And the hamlet known for its quiet
Grew hectic arranging the final rite.
All set, Kalama stood by watching
Her four sons shouldering the coffin:
A finest wooden chest of trembesi,
By the good man who was inside it,
Was too beautiful for a life’s irony.

When the ultimate ritual was over,
Kalama caught up with lost slumber
Like a log, in her lonely chamber.
When awakened, she could but suffer
From a loss no one could decipher
No soul would hear much from her.
The news transporting both us here
Me and my mother saw her whimper,
As any child would, at a dead brother.

(Tj. Beringin, 2007)

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