Dec 02, 2022 Last Updated 6:29 AM, Nov 29, 2022

Poem from prison

Published: Sep 30, 2007

Born in 1960, Bambang Isti Nugroho is a Yogyakarta-based writer active in journalism, theatre and literature. In 1985 he was one of the founders of Palagan, a study group concerned with issues of social justice and literature. In 1989 he was arrested, along with two other student activists from Yogyakarta, and tried under Indonesia's infamous 1963 Subversion Law. (See Inside Indonesia 19, July 1989). Sentenced to eight years, he served a term of six years in Yogyakarta's Wirogunan Prison.
Keith Foulcher was the translator.

Dreaming I was a bridegroom
The white bread you sent
I've already eaten
and the letter you slipped in
I've already read

I was so moved
by the dignity of your feelings
and the strength of your spirit

In my narrow cell under military detention
with its cold and smelly floor
my sleep was decorated with dreams
dreams of being a bridegroom

But there was something that made me nervous
for all who were there at the wedding
were wearing uniforms
and carrying guns

We were handcuffed
and I could hear
someone pounding a judge's gavel

Yes, it was a strange and frightening dream
but still I enjoyed
dreaming I was a bridegroom

Even with my hands bound
sleeping in my narrow cell
that was cold and full of mosquitoes

Something made me sad
when I was awoken from the dream
it all disappeared

And I felt again
what it was like to be under investigation
and feel fear

District Military Command, August '88

Bermimpi jadi pengantin
Roti tawar yang kau kirimkan
sudah aku makan
surat yang kau selipkan
juga sudah aku baca

Aku begitu terharu
betapa mulia hatimu
betapa tegar jiwamu

Dalam sel sempit tahanan militer
yang lantainya dingin dan bau
tidurku berhias mimpi
mimpi jadi pengantin

Ada yang membuat aku gelisah
yang hadir dalam pernikahan
semua berseragam
semua membawa senjata

Tangan kita diborgol
telingaku mendengar
orang mengetok-ngetokkan palu

Mimpiku memang aneh dan menakutkan
tapi tetap saja aku suka
bermimpi jadi pengantin

Biarpun tangan diborgol
tidur dalam sel sempit
yang dingin dan banyak nyamuk

Ada yang membuat aku sedih
bila aku terjaga dari mimpi
mimpiku jadi buyar

Aku merasakan kembali
sedang dalam penyidikan
merasakan ketakutan.

Kodim, Agustus '88


Inside Indonesia 51: Jul-Sep 1997


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A selection of stories from the Indonesian classics and modern writers, periodically published free for Inside Indonesia readers, courtesy of Lontar