Going for a Jog in Menteng: One Morning

Toeti Heraty

 

 

Ah,
morning jogs in in the city
no need for a map, won’t do me any good—
they’ve changed the names of the streets
again. they’ll soon run out of names of war heroes
streets and alleys, the veins of the city
messages and promises
that never go anywhere, aortas passing over the heart—
old routes in an old city painted
a deserted brown.

Ya,
the streets are empty
people running, lifting
deadweights on old shoulders
a tanjung petal falls, crushed beneath heavy feet
rare plants, sweet-smelling, dew on tips of leaves, everywhere
Now
the city wakes to morning’s embrace
lights break through branches, streetlamps
put out, cars
one by one, break rules
traffic lights and one way signs.

Get off the street!
Becak, piled high with this morning’s
produce, quick feet pedalling
quick sales at the morning market
Look!—
at Five Ways people deep-fry
bananas and cassavas for the builders
squatting, gossiping—
the progress of development, acceleration
and continuity, maintained as long as commissions are paid—
Clean Up Jakarta: the motto:
No Cigarette Butts! The basket-wielding
troops leave nothing to chance
even their own slow shadows, in the trees
trashbins, green gutters
face down, and quick as a flash
a cigarette butt at the end a mechanical arm.

Ai,
it will be light soon, must make
something of my day—a deserted map
Monas, the fountain, the bridge to
Kebayoran or Kuningan
an old map, like a dying heart
dark corners everywhere, the flow
will soon clog, then stop—
Karet, Menteng, Pulo, Tanah Kusir, wherever
as long as I can lie down, and not sleep
standing up
I know gravesites are getting too expensive these days.

But—
the worst thing is, if say for some reason
they won’t bury me here
and one morning, like this one,
or whenever I let my guard down, my soul
will go looking around
for nostalgia in a city it doesn’t recognise—
where’s the deserted map of Jakarta, where the Xs
that mark the spots, notes, scribbles, and the lines
that mark the scars of life?

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