the year 1957 in used clothes
The fresco mural Prometheus by José Clemente Orozco in Frary Dining Hall at Pomona College, 1930.

Language: Indonesian
Region: Jakarta, Indonesia
Poet: Afrizal Malna
Translator: Daniel Owen

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the year 1957 in used clothes

Two poems from Prometheus Pinball by Afrizal Malna, translated and with an introduction by Daniel Owen

“Third-Person DNA” and “Incident Before Monday” appear in the first chapter of Prometheus Pinball, a verse memoir of Jakarta by the poet and playwright Afrizal Malna. Published in 2020 by the Indonesian/Australian publisher Reading Sideways Press, the book is a document of Malna’s Jakarta that combines autobiographical narrative with material pulled from the internet to excavate, renew, revise, and reconfigure biography into a poetic form.

Orienting the book’s inquiries are the challenges of living within the ever-shifting ground of a modernizing city. Within the friction between personal memory and public history, Malna tracks the shifting terrain of Jakarta’s socio-cultural environment through the years of General Suharto’s dictatorship, seeking out the collisions between identity, history, and urban life that compose his biography. The book’s chapters are arranged as ten-year intervals on a timeline that begin with Malna’s birth in 1957, follow him through a coming-of-age period that coincides with Suharto’s usurpation of state power with the mass killing of leftists in 1965-66, and conclude in 1997, preceding the collapse of Suharto’s totalitarian New Order regime the following year.

“Prometheus Pinball opens with an agenda,” Malna writes in the book’s introduction. “How could I write poetry using biography as a primary source? Biography isn’t something that floats around untethered. There are at least two factors that shape my biography: Jakarta (where I was born and raised) and the Indonesian language that lives in Jakarta, which I use daily, between the identity migrations and waves of historical change that condition and cause identity to become increasingly composite.”

Afrizal Malna first came to public prominence in the early ’80s through his decade-long involvement with Jakarta-based experimental theater company Teater Sae. His debut collection of poems, Abad Yang Berlari [The Running Century], won the Jakarta Arts Council’s award for poetry in 1984. Almost immediately after winning the prize, Malna renounced the poems of The Running Century for their unreality and idealism, and in the midst of a rapidly developing industrial commodity culture spurred by the New Order’s neoliberal economic development policies, Malna’s focus shifted to the relationships between people and objects as a site for poetic inquiry. His poems became densely, chaotically populated with refrigerators and roofs, photocopiers and drainage canals, microphones, flashlights, pills, and neon signs.

This irruption of industrialized urban life into the space of poetry, replete with its ambivalence, despair, ecstasy, confusion, and perversion of traditional lifestyles and values, was a distinctive departure from Indonesia’s official verse culture of the time, which tended towards an abstract, idealized, and depoliticized notion of universal humanism, an aesthetic that bolstered the liberal illusion of a free, apolitical art desired by the US-backed the military-oligarchy alliance of the New Order.

–Daniel Owen

Afrizal Malna (b. 1957 in Jakarta, Indonesia) is an artist, theater maker, and writer of poetry, short stories, novels, literary essays, and playscripts. His work has won a number of national and international literary honors, notably the sea Write Award for Teman-Temanku Dari Atap Bahasa (My Friends from the Roof of Language) and the Khatulistiwa Literary Award for Museum Penghancur Dokumen (Document Shredding Museum). His most recent books are the essay collections Racun Tikus (Rat Poison) and Kandang Ayam (Chicken Coop), and the poetry collection Prometheus Pinball, all published in 2020. He was a 2015 daad Artist-in-Residence (Berlin) and has performed at poetry festivals in Bali, Bremen, Maastricht, Hamburg, Kerala, and Yokohama, in addition to being a participant in the 2017 Jakarta Biennale. His work has been translated into Dutch, English, German, Japanese, and Portuguese.

Daniel Owen is a poet, translator, and editor. His translation from the Indonesian of Afrizal Malna’s Document Shredding Museum was published in 2019 by Reading Sideways Press, and other translations (of work by Malna and Farhanah) have been published in The Poetry Project Newsletter, Asymptote, Exchanges, Jacket2, A Perfect Vacuum, The Brooklyn Rail, and elsewhere. He is the author of the poetry books Toot Sweet (United Artists, 2015) and Restaurant Samsara (Furniture Press, 2018). He edits and designs books and participates in many processes of the Ugly Duckling Presse editorial collective.

dna orang-ketiga

mungkin “dia” sedang berenang pagi itu. cahaya
matahari dan gerimis tipis yang biasa. siapakah
dia dengan tanda kutip. prometheus, frankenstein,
atau semacam ketakutan yang hidup dalam
bahasa bekas.

(bangunan itu, seperti rumah makan dalam
gereja. bukan tempat persembahan, atau kolam
renang buat prometheus. frary hall di pomona college
– sebuah kampus seni liberal di claremont,
california. sebuah mural josé clemente orozco
menopang kubahnya: mural sang prometheus,
telanjang dalam warna-warna yang membatalkan
kemarahan zeus.

kursi dan meja makan, daging kerbau dalam perut
sapi, api pengetahuan dan burung pemakan
bangkai yang menatap tubuh kematian).
“pulanglah, perempuan, makan dan duduklah
manis dalam rumah. tutup auratmu.”

siswa perempuan masuk dan ikut makan di frary
hall. siswa lelaki protes: “bagaimana mereka
makan di bawah tatapan telanjang prometheus,
menyengkram semua proposal tentang
penciptaan.” apakah perempuan terbuat dari mitos
lelaki yang cabul, dan seandainya burung gagak
duduk manis di depan masa lalu yang lumer.

apakah langit adalah seseorang yang bisa kusapa.
tubuhku terlentang, mengapung di permukaan
kolam. (cahaya matahari dan gerimis tipis biasa).
menatapmu sebagai seseorang yang tak punya
dinding dan tak punya runtuh. siapakah dia
dengan tanda kutip, dalam tubuh orang-ketiga
yang tak hadir.

angin dan riak air, seperti lintasan waktu (berlalu).
gesekan bibir (dingin) – tak punya cuaca. dan
tahun itu, 1957 yang aneh dan gila. lemparan
granat yang hampir membunuh presiden di
sekolah dasar cikini. anak-anak terluka. manusia
mati. akira kurosawa membuat macbeth dari
drama noh. memasukkan barat ke dalam tubuh
timur.

(apakah meja makan dan kolam renang sedang
saling menunggu, malam minggu ini. berjanji
menyusun tubuh orang-ketiga dari tarian serimpi
dan bedoyo. lenong yang birahi menatap perawan
mengupas mangga. ondel-ondel berputar,
membersihkan kampung dari santet dan pelet).

tahun yang aneh dan gila. mesir mulai membuka
parlemennya untuk perempuan. tahun bersama
pamplet mao: “biarlah seratur bunga mekar …
dan tahun itu, malam yang membuat jalan jadi
pusat kebudayaan. (zen dan pop art). willy brandt
menatap berlin yang terbelah.

lampu mati (tanpa kematian), meja makan
mencari dapur (tak ada dapur), seseorang
bunuh diri di kolam renang (tak ada orang mati
berenang
). orang-ketiga mulai dijahit di dalam
baju bekas. tahun itu. hakim membebaskan
kumpulan puisi howl – allen ginsberg, untuk
lumernya batas kebabasan pers dan
heteroseksual. ia bernyanyi untuk para pengungsi.
generasi beat dengan janggut, rambut gondrong,
sandal jepit dan baju bekas. menatap perang
vietnam dalam beat hotel di paris.

orang-ketiga adalah mayat-mayat yang dijahit
dalam ledakan petir dan arus listrik. mary shelley
menatap letusan tambora, langit seperti penjara
kematian tanpa musim panas. frankenstein men-
gajaknya bertemu orang-ketiga dalam sebuah
novel.

tahun 1957 dalam baju bekas tentang orang-
ketiga, james whale, yang menyutradarai
frankenstein, bunuh diri di kolam renangnya.
kematian berenang. tubuh orang-ketiga duduk
manis di setiap yang tak hadir. burung pemakan
bangkai membuat puisi dari setiap serpihan hati
prometheus.

mati dan hidup lagi. mati dan hidup lagi. dalam
penjara yang sama.

third-person dna

maybe “they” were swimming that morning. the usual
sunlight and thin drizzle. who is
they in quotation marks. prometheus, frankenstein,
or some kind of dread that lives in
used language.

(that building, like a restaurant in
a church. not an altar or a swimming
pool for prometheus. frary hall at pomona
college – a liberal arts campus in claremont,
california. a mural by josé clemente orozco
props up its dome: a mural of prometheus,
naked in colors that overrule
the wrath of zeus.

dinner table and chair, water buffalo meat in
a cow’s belly, the fire of knowledge and
vultures stare into death’s body).
“come home, woman, eat and
sit nicely at home. cover your body.”

a young woman comes in to eat at frary
hall. a male student objects: “how can she
sit there and eat beneath prometheus’s naked gaze
clutching at every proposal of
creation.” are women made of
men’s lewd myths, and what if a crow
sits nicely in front of the molten
past.

is the sky someone i can
greet. my body stretches out, floating on
the surface of the pool. (the usual sunlight
and thin drizzle). stares at you like someone
who has no walls, has no rubble.
who is they in the quotation marks, in the body
of the absent third-person.

wind and water ripples like time’s path (elapse).
rub of lips (cold) – has no
weather. and that year, 1957 odd and crazed
a hand grenade nearly kills
the president at a primary school in cikini. children
wounded. people dead. akira kurosawa makes
macbeth from noh theater. puts the west
in the east’s body.

(do the dinner table and the swimming pool
wait for each other on saturday night. promising
to assemble the third-person’s body from serimpi
and bedoyo dances. lustful lenong
staring at the maiden peeling a mango. ondel-
ondel whirl, cleansing the neighborhood of
black magic and mottles).

an odd, crazed year. egypt opens
its parliament to women. the same year as
mao’s pamphlet: “let a thousand flowers bloom …”
also that year, the night that turned the streets into
the seat of culture. (zen and pop art). willy brandt
stares at berlin divided.

the lights go dead (without dying), the dinner table
searches for the kitchen (there’s no kitchen), someone commits
suicide in a swimming pool (the dead don’t
swim
). the third-person sewn into
used clothes. that year. a judge pardons the poetry
collection howl – allen ginsberg,
melting down the limits of press freedom and hetero-
sexuality. he sings for the refugees. beat
generation with beards, long hair, sandals
and second-hand clothes. peering into the vietnam war
at the beat hotel in paris.

the third-person is the dead sewn
into bursts of thunder and electrical currents. mary shelley
stares into the eruption of tambora, the sky like death’s
summerless prison. frankenstein takes her to meet
the third-person in a novel.

the year 1957 in used clothes about the third-
person, james whale, the director of
frankenstein, kills himself in his swimming pool.
death swims. the third-person’s body sits
nicely in everything absent. vultures
make poetry out of each sliver of prometheus’s
heart.

die and come back to life. die and come back to life. in
the same prison.

peristiwa sebelum senin

besok hujan turun di hari senin → jam 5 sore.

tetesan air dari atap yang bocor jatuh di atas kerudung ibunya. seperti luka – seperti doa. seperti
tubuh yang tiba tiba bukan tubuh lagi. bekas gerimis yang dipunguti kembali oleh hujan, besok
pagi.

dia masih disuapi bubur dari hati sapi, kacang hi- jau dan tikus yang melubangi kelambu tidurnya.
besok hari senin jam 5 sore. menangis, agar waktu
tidak eslalu malam dan siang. menggaruk
gatal yang tumbuh di mana-mana. tubuhnya – ladang nyamuk. sebuah upacara dalam lingkaran asap obat nyamuk, antara yang menghisap darah yang gatal dan yang menggaruk di malam hari. (sebuah pesawat alien mendarat di pantai adriatik, francavilla, itali. – 1957, tahun di luar
kelambu tidurnya). seorang bayi yang tak punya usia.

buruh-buruh mulai mogok di seluruh perusahaan belanda. bank-bank, perkebunan, transportasi laut: jatuh. pak suradi membuat minuman “es kapal”
di solo. irisan roti menjelang tenggelam dalam gelasnya. antara santan, serutan es dan susu coklat. spanduk-spanduk “milik R.I.” mulai terpasand di mana-mana.

amerika resah membaca arah angin di asia tenggara, antara indonesia dan indocina. dubes keliling, gordon main, datang ke jakarta, ingin mendirikan pangkalan militer di irian barat. tidak. hutan-hutan papua menyimpan masa depan republik. belanda kian kehilangan kaca mata membaca hari esok di balik lukisan mooi indie 
yang kian abstrak.

angkatan laut amerika mulai mencium “krisis indonesia”. sekutu melakukan sidang darurat,
dalam bayangan “non-blok” yang mencemaskan dari asia-afrika. sastra membangun dua rumah
antara lekra dan seniman-seniman gelanggang. mendefinisikan diri antara anak semua bangsua dan modernisasi di halaman belakang. orang orang ingin menikmati rawon rampal sangadi dan sariah,
di malang. lidahmu akan masuk ke dalam
bayangan rempah rempah dan tatapan lembut
mata sapi.

stasiun listrik: jatuh. perusahaan gas: jatuh. batu bara: jatuh. nasionalisasi menerima banyak tafsir, dengan wajah berbeda antara rakyat dan tentara. militer menggunakan undang-undang keadaan bahaya. hari senin mulai tidak sama dengan hari senin dan (hari senin). kargo kargo amerika, berisi senjata modern, mulai diterjunkan ke sumatera barat. kapal perang mencari hari senin dalam hari senin di teluk bayur. “apakah hari senin bisa ditembak?” dia bertanya pada ibunya.

anak ayam berlari-lari bersama tikus got di depan pintu rumah. sampah baru saja dibakar. seekor kucing melompat, mengambil ayam goreng di
atas meja makan. seekor burung gereja terbang
mencari gereja. sebuah republik sedang menyulam kawasannya antara di dalam dan di luar.

“ibu, kenapa kita tidak tinggal 7 hari saja di sini?
di muka bumi ini.” kelahiran seperti sebuah libur panjang di antara sirene jam malam, orang-orang berbaris, sewa tanah dan pergantian kabinet.

/ 7 hari saja /

incident before monday

tomorrow rain falls on monday → 5 o’clock in the afternoon.

drops of water from the leaky roof will drip on mother’s headscarf. like a wound — like love.
like a body that suddenly isn’t a body anymore. traces of drizzle picked back up by the rain, tomorrow morning.

they’re still spoon-fed a porridge of beef liver, mung beans,
and rats that chew holes in their bed’s
mosquito netting. tomorrow at five o’clock in the afternoon. crying
for time to not always be night and day. scratching at the itch that arises every-
where. their body — a mosquito field. a
ceremony in the circles of mosquito coil smoke, between what sucks blood, what itches, and
what scratches in the night. (an alien aircraft lands on the adriatic shore, francavillia, italy.
— 
1957, a year outside its bed’s mosquito net). a baby that can’t have an age.

workers at all the dutch companies go on
strike. banks, plantations, shipping:
fall. pak suradi invents the drink “es
kapal” in solo. slices of bread nearly drowning
in the glass. among coconut cream, shaved ice and
chocolate milk. banners that read “property of the Republic
of Indonesia” are put up all around.

america is anxious, reading the direction of the winds over
southeast asia, between indonesia and indochina. ambassador
-at-large gordon mein comes to jakarta, intending
to establish a military base in west irian. no.
the jungles of papua hold the future of
the republic. the netherlands loses perspective, reading yesterday on the back of 
mooi indie paintings
that are increasingly abstract.

the american navy can start to smell the “indonesian crisis.” the allies hold an emergency meeting,
in the shadow of the “non-bloc” that’s been bothering them
from asia-africa. literature builds two homes, between lekra and gelanggang.
defines itself between 
a child of all nations 
and backyard modernization. the people
want to enjoy sangadi and sariah’s rawon
rampal, in malang. your tongue will enter shadows of spices and the gentle gaze of
cow’s eyes.

electrical substations: fall. gas companies: fall. coal: fall. nationalization accepts multiple interpretations,
different faces for the people and the army.
the military implements state-of emergency
law. monday starts to not be the same as 
monday and (monday). american cargo ships,
filled with modern weaponry, are deployed
to west sumatra. warships search for monday
within monday in the bay of bayur. “can
monday get shot?” they ask their mother.

chicks run around with sewer rats out front.
the garbage has just been burned.
a cat leaps, grabs the fried
chicken from the dinner table. a church sparrow
flies away looking for a church. a republic is embroidering its territory, between inside and outside.

“mama, how come we don’t live here for just 7 days? on the face of the earth.” a birth like a long vacation among curfew sirens, crowds lined up
in rows, land rent, and cabinet reshuffles.

/just 7 days/