May 22, 2024 Last Updated 6:09 AM, May 21, 2024

Bui Ihi—The Cooling of the Harvest

Bui Ihi—The Cooling of the Harvest
Published: Nov 05, 2014
Young emerging Indonesian poet

Mario F Lawi

The following poems are the work of Mario F Lawi, an emerging poet and writer from Eastern Indonesia. Mario was born in  Kupang, Nusa Tenggara Timur, 18 February 1991. He is a student at Communication Studies, Nusa Cendana University and a member of Flambora Village Literary Community. Named by his peers as one of the promising young poets of Indonesia, his poems have been published in national and local newspapers, literary journals and various compilations and anthologies. After attending many literary festivals, including the Makassar International Writers Festival and Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in 2013, Mario's poems have been widely appreciated within Indonesia's literary circles.


He expunged his faith
in a promise never kept

To God who sent no reinforcements,
he swore his enmity.

If there is a bible whose word is spread in wartime
he will destroy it with the bullets
inside his rifle.

As with his ancestors in Peniel,
he believed that God would want a fair fight
without the aid of angels and saints
or sadness that makes them appear more human.


In the West, the sun has faded,
the city is a vessel of milk fallen from the table.
Before him, he sees thousands of Jacobs
coming to welcome their blind Isaac.

His heart is still crushed by sadness,
The jackboots on his feet are weighed down by thoughts:
the prayers of his wife and children are reluctant
to save his life on the battlefield.

As in welcoming life—
in the final cartridge—
he found the face of God
in a city nearly vacant because of battle.
He brings back to life the faces of his wife and children
with an inestimable feeling of gratefulness
for a fate growing ever more unfortunate.

Working translation by John H. McGlynn


Bui Ihi — The Cooling of the Harvest


After the long and wearisome ritual census, in which the people and all their assets are counted, make haste to gather seated in a circle around sliced betel leaves and areca nut. Pray that the worrisome harvest time will expiate all sins and prejudices. We will release in the cockfight arena seven pair of roosters. Their freed souls need not be troubled in immortalizing laughter and sorrow. Moreover, their blood that is spilled will dissipate anxiety in times when the Goddess of Fertility fail to conceal her anger. The prayers of the planting season that follow will keep us free from illness and calamity. Remember this, my love, in the city our youngest is studying to correct the fate that we have been dealt through schooling.

We will move from field to field as long as the stems of the fan palms are still slippery and the stepping stones have yet to be cleaned of moss. Morning has yet to finish wiping its eyes and stretching its body. Make haste to finish the work in this field so that by the time evening’s shadows lengthen, the contents of the plaited ha’ba basket, which will never again provide smoke for the kitchen, may be changed with a parade of flowers and leaves upon your handwoven cloth.

'Ana appu ya de tape wede pa loko pa da’i ta mahhe ri mone b’aga… I pray that this grandchild of yours, who has been raised in love and harmony, will find for herself a man who is rich in fields and rice barns…' Do you still remember how your grandfather’s eyes gleamed when he recited this prayer in the Hawu language at the time of your initiation rite. No flame could compare with the brightness of his gaze. Yet it is on my bony chest you place all the options for continuity.


Sorghum is a match for the slices of pork in your cooking pot, a match that you will have to put more in defending than did the devil himself when driven by Christ into a herd of pigs. The ka’bahuru serving spoon made of coconut shell will not provide sufficient explanation for the bits of fat that stick to the roof of your mouth like the remains of sin the devil has left behind. It is enough that I baptise you with a glass of warm water, without ritual or the sign of the cross. All that is locked will be opened, wider than the door of Zecharia when spiritual enlightenment came to call. Today we once again recall the daba initiation rite that provides hope for all. Because the hearts that we have nurtured will be used to dissolve vengeance, thereby eradicate all suffering into the holes for seeds made in the field. Into the mouths of moné ama, the elders, who spray their blessings from behind the red of betel quid that lies upon the stones.

Working translation by John H. McGlynn

(Bui ihi is a ritual 'cooling' of the harvest. Animals and even humans are considered to be “hot” in the months before the harvest. Also known as banga liwu, the term bui ihi is derived from the name of the mystical goddess of fertility.)


Gela —The Main Pillar


On my forehead remains the sign of the cross, rubbed into it by my grandfather using coconut fiber with a loving swish of his hand and a quid of betel in his mouth: 'This sign, my grandson, is the beginning of eternity'. My cross was red, blood red like a bloody nose. Its scent was reminiscent of urine, like the first time my baby peed. I hid my sobs inside the armoir, because in a moment the crow would be replaced by a canary, before my body was transformed into a sandbag target for the bullets of early morning.


From one road to another, my grandfather took the time to look for God who was sprawled out in the gutter. Sometimes he found God hanging his breath on the spadix of the fan palm. But it seems God didn’t have the strength of breath to finish the hand-rolled cigarette that Grandfather usually held at the side of his lips. In his thirty dying prayers Grandfather navigated small boats to the sea, to his ancestors who had taught him how to smoke; to islands where kingdoms arose between his times of trouble; to the sound from constantly sipping on sugar sap and palm wine in his kitchen; to everything that brought about the white hairs on his head.

He supported on his back the weight that came with the weariness of old age. Grandfather stared at me fraily. “I am going home. Don’t forget to visit.” I could see Grandmother’s face in his eyes. In his hand, Gradfather quickly carried the plaited ha’ba basket to the Mehara plain. His legs shamed morning; he was old yet full of spirit. It was silent; sheep spoke in voices they were no longer able to lift his cane.

'Grandpa, I’m going to the city', I told him, 'to buy a bottle of Sprite for you. I’ll put it in the ground near the spring in the back of the house. So that the spadix I cut will one day sprout a thread factory and rainbow hands to weave once more the love story of your youth'.

And also a wheel chair and a dentist to help with the symptoms of old age that were foretold by the best fortune-teller in the village.


Wo Deo Muri, ne ta herae ta hero’de ri nyiu wou mangngi, mita rui kedi ihi kuri, mita haga dara, mita ju medera, kelodo pa taga rihi dula… Dear God source of life, on this child is smeared a fragant masticated coconut so that he grows to be healthy and strong in body and soul and attains a respectable position in his family and his community.

Working translation by John H. McGlynn


Roa—The Floor Slats

My true desire was to be presented as your source of water when I emerged. Because the stone in the South has been broken and God has yet to grant his blessing. Unless you once witnessed my struggle with your enemy Beelzebub. I hope you understand the journey that led to the emergence of my stigmata.

The boats you navigated to the end of the bay need not know how you created them. The sea of your soul is likely to transform into a curving steam. And the offerings that we will cast overboard will plug every crevice. So that sin is not submerged in the distant, the place where the sun hides the darkness of all hollows.

Mone Kerai, who leads the death rituals, will not remember our death, because Mehara’s ears are sharply listening to each and every prayer. Even when we forget to display our gratefulness through dancing a padoa. You know, I scratched your name with a trembling hand on the top of the fan palm behind your house sixty years ago—at the time your smile was that of a fish laboring to dive into the deepest recesses of my heart.

Your were seven, I was nine. Time seems to proceed slowly. But we still had to part at the end of the road. May I accompany you in your search for the South? If this is the time of waiting, allow me to sing the 'Pater Noster' or 'Kyrie Eleison'. Before my days ended, you planted me inside your breast, that fount where our children suckled and wove the promised salvation.

Working translation by John H. McGlynn




 The translation is provided courtesy of the Lontar Foundation. Published here with the permission of the author. 


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