Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Batik Painter

A heavily meaningful poem by Huzir Sulaiman that painted a picture of the other side of Malaysia, of the poor and forgotten people who are only remembered when votes are needed to win elections.


The ground’s not all mud from yesterday’s rain
The long grass is thick, and thickens each hour
Ruts from the heavy Pajeros remain
In those tyre-tracks: water, blue leaflets, a flower
The wax melts and pools, viscous and slow
The fabric accepts it, and colours retreat
       My daughter went south two days ago
       Outside, damp slippers remember her feet
Worn metal, my canting; warm resin; thick wax
Some mornings I tremble, but patterns unfold
       Blue leaflets turn sodden, then suddenly black
       The convoys are gone; torn bunting sprout mould
       Three months after March, half smirk and half slap:
       “Things go up. Share the burden. Times are tight.”
My chocolate dye starts brown at the tap
My daughter went south; she went there to fight              
The gunnysack’s light, and lightens each week
A silence has settled; our air starts to thin
Our fabric accepts it; our fabric is meek
Slow and viscous the trap we paint ourselves in
They picked up her teeth one by one off the ground
The rain smearing fluids pooling like wax
The red-sided trucks making cannibal sounds
Bells ringing; coughing; torn placards on tyre-tracks
I put down my canting; I must go to bed
My wife’s dusty mirror has cracks in the frame
I have always done whatever they said
When cold, wax hardens. I turn off the flame.

The batik painter of a northern state (most probably Kelantan) lived through a campaign for the general elections.  "Blue leaflets" signify government campaigners in their "heavy Pajeros".

His daughter "went south" to support anti-government demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur.  She was attacked and badly injured (they picked her teeth off the ground) by brutal law enforcers in their "red-sided trucks making cannibal sounds".

He suffered the victorious government's callous decision to raise prices of essential goods "three months after March" elections.  Meanwhile water from the taps still came out in polluted brown color.  And food runs low as the gunnysack gets lighter each week.

Nothing's changed.  He's "always done whatever they said" and went to vote diligently, but he still remained poor as his "wife's dusty mirror has cracks in the frame".  And "when cold, wax hardens" as the flame is turned off (until the next elections when the flame is turned on again).

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