Dec 02, 2023 Last Updated 8:29 PM, Nov 27, 2023

Kartini: Anthology of poems

Published: Nov 29, 2016

Five poems celebrating Kartini and her contribution to Indonesia's feminist movement.


Translations by Harry Aveling, October 2016. Read in Indonesian here.

1. Patih Goah by Siwi Dwi Saputro
2. Writing by Wikan Satriati
3. Farewell, Fierda by Ian Campbell
4. Your Fate, Village Girl by Ariany Isnamurti
5. A Thousand Temples for You by Siwi W. Hadiprajitno


Patih Goah

Siwi Dwi Saputro

I am Patih Goah
the mother of all men and women
moving with time across eternity

thousands of light years have passed
my feet have walked
from heavenly nirvana to the thorn covered earth
and I do not care

the seasons change
my tears scatter across the flat plains
flow through life’s veins
throbbing excitedly
giving soft gentle moments

I can be anyone I want to be
Persephone experiencing her fate, living in the underworld
heroic Minerva
jealous Hera or Medusa with snakes in her hair

I can be Amba whose curse provoked the Baratayuda war
and led Drupadi to be offered at the dice table

I can be Dewi Pohaci, the beautiful woman born from the earth
created from dewa Anta’s tears
Even Sita, longing for the Golden Deer
Dying in the fire because my purity made me nervous
Of course I can be Anjani whose ambition turned her into a monkey
Or Savitri, who staggered to find her man although she was beautiful and clever
Perhaps I could be Calon Arang, the powerful woman victim of patriarchy
Or maybe Bahu Laweyan, with a beauty spot on my shoulder,
Whose body makes me the target of domestic murder
I can be anyone at all. Madonna, Lady Gaga or Mother Theresa

or today 
even Kartini
Because I am Patih Goah
Woman, mother of all men and women

16 March 2016


Wikan Satriati

at the age of 12
she was locked away
imprisoned behind the regency walls
no longer allowed to go to school
to learn
which she truly loved 

         because she was a woman

it was time to marry
even though that was
not what she wanted to do 

         because she was a woman

Her life ended
in noble sacrifice
she gave birth to a son

         because she was a woman


despite all her limitations
she fulfilled her ambitions
to read
Multatuli, Louis Coperus,
Van Eerden, Augusta de Witt
Goekoop de Jong, Berta von Suttner

she wrote to remember
she wrote to unravel her aching heart
she wrote letters
history remembers them
they have made her famous 

because she was a woman?

her thoughts have survived time
and are talked about
are discussed
by the women’s movement
to this very day 

because she is a writer?

the name of a woman 
who writes
         will be remembered
                  on this day.


Farewell, Fierda

Ian Campbell 

The midday sun tried to pierce the red tin roof
over the broad verandah, I was almost asleep, sprawled
untidily in the old wooden cane chair, half dreaming...
from the corner of one eye, an eagle appeared and began to fly
over the swamps, near Mount Boongan
like a woman’s breast against the sky

The bird rose circling in the wind
flapping its wings at the sky, higher, higher,
always circling in the wind around the swamps, near Mount
Boongan. Suddenly the eagle, no more than a black dot, vanished,
vanished in the endless blue sky

that was the moment, I can see it. I was drawn to the spot
Sumedang – mist and wind and death. Disaster was approaching.
A terrible tragedy. 

“Merpati flight CN-285 disappeared around Sumedang
the pilot, captain Fierda Panggabean (29), was born in Tapanuli,
she was the first woman pilot to qualify to fly planes of that type,
MNA CN-285 smashed into Mount Puntang
The iron bird was destroyed.” 

Habibie said the plane was in good condition, strong,
Habibie said it was possible that the pilot Fierda was confused.
Habibie guaranteed… 

                          The weather? 
                                                   A storm? 
                          Check again? 
                                            Black box? 
             A woman? 
                          ‘Trangadi’= A TRAGEDY  

According to an SAR offical, the deceased was still in the cockpit, her hands still held the controls... the rain, wind and the mist seemed to have conspired with death... 

and later Fierda’s body was covered with our nation’s flag and escorted by her colleagues, her fellow pilots,

covered by a flag,  
                  and white, 
                           Fierda’s body 
                                    was escorted by her colleagues, fellow pilots, 
                                             far, far away

                                                               Farewell, Fierda
                                                               friend of Irian Jaya

                                             Farewell, Fierda
                                             called by God

                           Farewell, Fierda
                           who proved to the local people 
                           of inland Irian Jaya
                           that a woman can fly a plane,
                           providing a secure link
                           to the outside world...

                  Centrifugal forces,
                                             periphery and centre
status and death
                           freedom to follow the currents
                                    sovereignty and fear disintegrated
         inland and metropolis,
                           the sky and doves,

One is lost two remain.
                  woman striving, eagle daring.

The eagle vanished from the swamps near Mount Boongan
A woman’s breast appeared. I heard the sad voice of a flute
weeping over the eucalyptus and casuarina trees
as they slowly waved in the wind
blowing towards eternity in the blue sky 


Your Fate, Village Girl

Ariany Isnamurti

my nation... despite our current globalisation
I still find the disturbing reality
that your village girls
are the victims of early marriage
it concerns me 
that they are married before the age of sixteen
when they should be at school or joking with their friends
the are forced to maintain families
to serve their husbands and children, do the housework,
even to fight life and death as they give birth
must we allow this situation to continue?
this nation does not yet offer peace
to its village girls

TIM, 19032016

A Thousand Temples for You

Siwi W. Hadiprajitno

I have built a thousand temples for you, Jonggrang. 

Not 999. 

Then why are you reluctant to strike the mortars and pestle so that the roosters can crow and call the sun to rise?

Why are you reluctant to blow on the lamps so that the sun will rush to provide its early morning light earlier than usual?

Why are you reluctant to put the pots on the fire so that the sound of boiling water will encourage folks to find warmth in the middle of the kitchen?

Why are you reluctant to sweep the floor with a broom so that the dust will swirl and fly out the door and invite the wind to dance its morning greetings to the sparrows in their nests hidden in the leaves of the mango trees?

I am no Bandung Bondowoso, who could only complete 999 temples of the thousand you demanded.

You are too extreme, Jonggrang. 

The fishermen’s net are still floating in the waves of the bracken waters which are rolling towards the coast of the Java sea 

This time I will not curse your body to become a statue. 

There is no need for that.  

Now I curse your heart:  

May you never know love     

Hasanudin, 28/1/2016


Inside Indonesia 126: Oct-Dec 2016{jcomments on}

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