Laksmi Pamuntijak has been chosen to represent Indonesia at Poetry Parnassus as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. She is one of eight Asia Literary Review poets among the 205 who will perform at the South Bank Centre in the last week of June 2012. Click here for links to all the poets and their poems.
Sitting at a Window Table in a Café
First I must
tell you, it is not the first for the
black. For the record, let’s call her
Just look at
her coffee: a
shot on a clean base. Tight,
only halfway up, forgetting,
As for the
bundle of nerves in Lady Grey rose –
which out of
politeness we shall call
Woman instead of the Other Woman –
you recognise a novice:
light brown stain swirling around milk,
getting. Nothing but foam
at the bottom
of a demitasse cup.
And now it is
getting on noon and tassels
like eyeliners are fraying.
peach crush, smudged on the rims of
Who says each
case is going to be different:
beginning, each ending?
Is this how it happened? says the First Woman,
Over a cup of coffee?
Did he watch you stir your cream in,
longing to kiss the sweetness the froth was brought into?
Did he ask you, politely – oh, for he is polite –
whether he could?
of cream, of sugar,
cloying and cowardly,
how it fazes
the Second Woman terribly.
nothing, and so are
the both of
them thinned out,
the other out.
comes the tightening,
having to come out of breathing.
Woman’s reply, finally,
inevitable now that they’ve come this far):
But is it? Of
know that nothing is ever over,
not if it has
to be uttered by women
like her to
women like her.
It’s over. Is it?
Yet what a
tall order, to forgive:
power game and putting in place,
knottier than “I am sorry,”
scout’s easy way out.
For a moment
the First Woman was lost in thought.
there a time, a long time ago,
hibiscus in the garden of her old home,
his face long
with the sun pale behind him:
This is not about you, he said. I ask you not to forgive me.
years now? Neither of them
her silence meant.
the Second Woman kept to
silence: they took so little space.
ever be, she thought, enough coffee in a lifetime:
home-breaker, the stuff of satire?
tell, with all that crimsoning,
mature but broken fruit
But have I
told you: the two women would never meet again.
That having opened the box,
we find in it sun-dried pineapples,
parched lotus roots,
pinnate seeds bleeding into puce.
and a barbecue shrimp mix
we know is anything but.
that having looked at the box,
we can’t decide what it is:
a witch’s vasculum, Louisiana tourism ministry’s
free-gift box, or site-specific art.
that red is not what makes purple,
is not the colour of blood or wine,
and henceforth is neither
sin nor Satan.
that the venule is like any other
vein, as plebeian as any,
a delusional vessel of life; and
that its hopes are not even as grand as
the turdy smell produced by air which is
wedded to a certain strain of
jasmine: that feral smell, that mortal sign,
that most unheralded of death knells.
that acetone and ambergris do not
settle their differences in bed;
taking them, instead, to the halls
of the divorce court.
that a furious absinthe
hands a pint of wormwood
to Aniseed the Timid, and folk
start dying from a sudden plague
of the diabolical pastis, having
repeatedly ignored the razor
glints in the cloudy water.
that love is the mind’s doing, not the eyes’,
and on which note even the twenty-by-twenty
black box downtown has the opalescence
of the silkiest sable, depending on
what you choose to remember.
that a box contains.
what it seeks