(Translation) Becoming a Ghost by M. Aan Mansyur (“Menjadi Hantu”)

This poem, from Melihat Api Bekerja, a poetry collection by M. Aan Mansyur, struck me as familiar in its theme: a selfless, deeply-rooted love, which is quite a common staple in the works of Sapardi Djoko Damono (remember “Aku Ingin” and “Hujan Bulan Juni”?). What I think is unique in this poem is the deployment of present-day idioms in carrying that mission of expressing a selfless love. I might be wrong, but this poem prefers the more down-to-earth expression of shoes and dirty laundry piling on the floor to the lyrical expression common in earlier(?) poetic traditions, including the one to which Sapardi Djoko Damono belongs. However–and I see this as an interesting trope in M Aan Mansyur’s poetry (as far as this book is concerned)–there seems to be a tension in this poem between an all-out expression of jealousy and sensuality: “Posing as a scarf, because another man, without a pause, desires your breast.” The other guy (a hypothetical poet?) gets to desire the breast, while the persona of this poetry plays the role of a scarf, clinging tight, covering the neck (and breast?), possessing all.

Becoming a Ghost

“My apologies to past loves for
treating the latest as the first.”
— Wislawa Szymborska

I want to sleep all day in your
shoes when you’re away at
work wearing another pair.
Waiting at home without

I want to be favorite colors
around your neck. Posing
as a scarf, because another
man covets your breast
without an end.

I want to snore like a python
or a wind in the room corner,
among the pile of your dirty clothes.
They’re warm and cozy. Clinging,
and still carrying your scent.

(“Menjadi Hantu,” from page 56 of Melihat Api Bekerja, translated by yours truly, to whom the responsibility falls in case of any reduction of beauty.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *