Thursday, June 7, 2007

published in 'eye on the world' 04, i think. am the proudest of this poem. once in a while i take it out and read it and feel all happy. i know, so sad right.


A city from sand

They live like sultans, simply, in an istana of wood
By a stream that stopped paying tribute a generation ago
Mahsuri is still bleeding white, cursing her own people for seven generations
Hang Tuah sits by the window, balancing his keris on one bony finger
Still thinking if he should have loved the one who loved him best

Puteri Gunung Ledang knows now what she will ask the Sultan for
It will not be the seven trays of mosquito hearts, or the seven jars of virgins’ tears
Or even the bowl of blood from his son, because she knows he has bled him dry already
She will ask him to teach their people to remember what they have lost
And who they might have become

They who have kept but one promise, an old one by their ancestor
Demang Lebar Daun to Sang Nila Utama , liege-man to his king,
To serve those who rule them without treachery or dishonour.

While those who have overthrown Sang Nila Utama
Through the coup d’etat of stories systematically shot in the head
Have filed him away,
Descendant of King Solomon and Alexander the Great,
Into children’s stories and cheap local paperbacks
As the slightly foolish young man who was so entranced by one lion
That he created a city from sand.

December 2004

Mahsuri- Central character of a Malay myth who is wrongly lynched for adultery
Hang Tuah- Legendary Malay hero who killed his best friend, who had been running amok, on orders from the sultan
Keris- Traditional dagger
Puteri Gunung Ledang- Mythical fairy princess who lives on top of Mt. Ledang in Malaysia. Asks for impossible wedding gifts from suitors so as to discourage them
Demang Lebar Daun- Chief Minister to Sang Nila Utama
Sang Nila Utama- Founder of Singapore, also Palembang ruler from which many Malay Sultans claim descent

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