I can't sleep.
People chatter, dogs bark
The world blurs into the distance
Darkness walled in by stone
Beaten by voices, over and over
With fire and ashes nearby
I want to speak
My voice disappears, my strength vanishes
All right! It doesn't matter!
This world dislikes being spoken to, I don't care
The river water turns to ice
And life is life no longer
I do again what I did before
Close my ears, close my eyes
And wait for the calm that has to come.
by Chairil Anwar, Translated by Burton Raffel and Nurdin Salam
Anwar, an Indonesian poet, was born on July 26, 1922 and died on April 29, 1949.
In writing about his work, James S Holmes says --
"In his later years, at any rate, Anwar took his poetry like his life, where he found it: in anthologies or on the waterfront made little differences. And to the last he was overflowing with schemes and projects. In April, 1949, he told a friend that he wanted to go to Macassar, across the Java Sea on the island of Celebes, to note down sea chanties from the Buginese sailors. He had plans to translate Garcia Lorca. And he was thinking about the possibility of a trip to India and Europe."
In some way, this book came into my hands years ago. It's disappeared and reappeared a number of times, including last week when it took leave of me for a few days after I was so happy to have found it's splattered self while I was doing the systematic read-and-dismiss of books on my shelves during my vacation on the island of bed.
Now I'm not entirely certain why his work appealed to me,(though I know why this particular poem was so relevant to my brooding thoughts which did not include any vision of the calm that had to come) but it did. As did the work of Denise Levertov. And much, much later, toward recent years, the poems of Raymond Carver.