If the sea were free

If the sea were free
the promenade a second home
towers were few
pigeons perch undisturbed
if steels were poorer
and soils were richer
we would be overwhelmed
by the strange new love
for the sky, trees
and ourselves,
since the sea is free.
But the sea isn’t free
the promenade a commercial gallery
number of towers outranks roots of trees
paranoid pigeons
dare not to land among human’s feet
while steels shelter the riches
soils poison both the poor and riches
our hearts are incurably broken
and we know not.

(Jakarta, 29 December 2012. Ancol Beach.)

On Places

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
- John Donne

At times people dwell in the past too much, not because they refuse to live in the present, so let’s not rush in our judgments. They are in search of something that only few would perhaps understand as positive, or understand at all. They seek for roots, for identity, spasm of chance, for some were born without one. For those who have no past, they can hardly afford a future.

And the past often times refers to places. Places that we know, a city we grow up in, streets we recognize like the back of our hands. Places some of us even have the courage to call home. We feel the clash between our own hearts and minds, agreeing upon what that place really means, or is. And no matter what we’ve been through, everywhere we’ve stayed, by the end of the day we whisper to ourselves: it’s just a god-damn place. True. A place is just a place. Could be more than just a place, only when we map the geographical being in our mind and relate it to our sense of identity. Whether it’s growing out of sentimentality or the lack of it, one can’t help to – at least once in his life – question his roots of identity and thus identify him/herself with the closest non-human substance, a place.

Let’s go to the road less taken. Shift the focus on Punk subculture, the illegitimate rootless group with no origins who question their own identity, for they are “predicated upon a denial of place” (Cavallaro). Trying to come close to the Blacks, the Punk associate themselves with reggae, contribute to the Rock against Racism campaign, develop hair-styles that approximate the “natty” or dreadlock styles and even wear Ethiopian colors. As their “closest” associates as a marginalized group, the Blacks (those who went on exile before slavery was officially abolished) are even envied by the punk since they (and their generations) are believed to be luckier for being able to situate themselves in relation to historical origins, identities and places such as the West Indies and Africa as the homeland. In this lowest status of being rootless with no relation to any place at all, the punk’s entity in terms of historical origin/place is described as “nameless housing estates, anonymous dole queues, slums-in-the-abstract”. Having no place among the whites, nor anywhere else, the punk subculture knows best what their rage is all about, that they – by conveying no title to any historical origin and place – could hardly afford a future.

For we ache for a place, a place has got to be more than just a place. A city more than just a city. May it be less than ideal or perfect. We don’t seem to move on before we fully grab it. Some struggle so hard to adapt to the current place, and once they grow used to it, they begin to assign it as “home”. It’s those 227 days on the lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker in the middle of the vast ocean in the Life of Pi. It’s John Steinbeck’s hometown Salinas Valley, his source of inspiration that he kept mentioning in many of his books as the home setting of his characters. It’s Milton’s vision of Paradise Lost. It’s Woody Allen’s NYC. The Prague of Franz Kafka.  London to Virginia Woolf. It’s Jesus saying, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”. It’s Jane Austen’s sensible protagonist Marianne Dashwood bidding farewell to the family’s house in Norland:

‘Dear, dear Norland!’ said Marianne, as she wandered alone before the house, on the last evening of their being there; ‘when shall I cease to regret you! – when learn to feel a home elsewhere! – Oh! happy house, could you know what I suffer in now viewing you from this spot, from whence perhaps I may view you no more! – And you, ye well-known trees! – but you will continue the same. — No leaf will decay because we are removed, nor any branch become motionless although we can observe you no longer! — No; you will continue the same; unconscious of the pleasure or the regret you occasion, and insensible of any change in those who walk under your shade! — But who will remain to enjoy you?’

It’s not about the “unconscious” place, maybe it’s part of ourselves. Does that explain all the agony, impossibility at times? And while we keep aching for the former “home”, we fail to realize that something is in labor, a new “home” is in the making. We’re guessing that maybe this is it. It shall be home. Maybe this one. It’ll work this time. Maybe a home is the one we’re about to find yet, not the one we leave behind. But then the pain will always be there. Here. The pang of homesick, no matter how far we’ve returned or gone. For we know that we’re rootless, we’re homeless, and this place we’re now in isn’t our own. And maybe the wisdom is found – once again – between the tunes.

Homesick, ’cause I no longer know where home is.

On Memories

First there was a house. It was a house too big for three: the father, the girl, and the dog. Almost everything was made of wood and every furniture was covered by white laces. It boasted no luxury but a front and backyard, three bedrooms, a dining room, a living room, a garage full of shoe-making tools, spider webs, and an empty big fish pond where they bathed their dog every Sunday morning. In the garden there were trees, bee-hives, butterflies, and each morning the leaves and grass was shimmering with fresh dew. Then one day there was excessive amount of water coming through everywhere. It mounted up to knee-high, and the little brown dog was put on the cupboard and it didn’t stop barking nor its tail stopped waving. In the middle of such, the little girl had no fear of anything. She couldn’t remember what her father looked like that day, but the next day they had a new yellowish brown mark on the walls. After the walls were repainted everything was back to normal and the odor of the rotten wood slowly disappeared.

Second there was a storm. Fingers snapped and the house no longer stood there. The whole construction was sadly gone, and it was taking all the trees, the beehives, the butterflies, and the dog away for they belonged altogether. There was only a piece of queer looking object lying on what was once the living room. It was as small as a marble, raw, shapeless, and colorless. The girl took it and put it in her side pocket for it looked harmless and interesting, nothing like the mysterious beehives or the dandy butterflies that she never got to catch. “It must be a part of the house I’d never seen before”, she told herself. The thing grew bigger and split itself til one day it had to be kept in a sealed jar.That night when the red crescent moon hung low, it began to take shapes and show some colors. It was the shapes and colors of a garden, a tree, spider webs, a beehive, butterflies, knee-high water mark, a little brown dog, shoe-making tools, and even her father’s face yet they all had no sounds. Sometimes the spider webs grew on trees and the grass smelled like rotten wood. At some evenings, the dog took shape of rippling water and the knee-high water drowned the house. On some weirder days, she saw her father hiding in the beehive, the bees swarmed the garage while the dog shimmered with dew. At first the girl was amused but then she was dreaded by the distorted figures. She had wished to have never carried the thing in her pocket but it was all too late and the jar, then the bigger jar, then the far bigger jar shattered and the size of its growth never approached a limit.


On Autumn

Beauty and fragility.
A hummingbird on a book cover, a naked Sycamore with a Y and X-shaped branches exposed, a cup of tea. But where did the birds go? Come back! this is the dawn of something new. Last night’s noise must have meant something as the leaves landed on the ground, a fissure of melancholy and illustrious agony, or maybe just a repetitive symptom of a fatigue Earth. Rivers shine birds melt dust migrate eyes blink wheels halt roads diverge coldness crawls inside my sleeves. I believe Autumn’s only a transition but what isn’t? And alas, the wind altered the season, the leaves pulled down like curtains and it was the end of it, if not everything.


Several shots at the Flohmarkt (flea market). It’s the one right outside the Ostbahnhof. Unlike Mauerpark, this one has more elderly than young hipsters people. Smaller, less crowded, and more paintings.

a box


Dear Pat,
You came upon me carving some kind of little figure out of wood and you said, “Why don’t you make something for me?”
I asked you what you wanted, and you said, “A box.”
“What for?”
“To put things in.”
“What things?”
“Whatever you have,” you said.
Well, here’s your box. Nearly everything I have is in it, and it is not full. Pain and excitement are in it, and feeling good or bad and evil thoughts and good thoughts — the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation.
And on top of these are all the gratitude and love I have for you.
And still the box is not full.


-the Dedication page of John Steinbeck’s East of Eden (1952). Lines I always revisit and grow fonder of each time.

plastic cup

“For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not, shall be taken away even that which he hath” This is a law. This was, is, and is going to be the law of abundance. Binding and enforcing.

It’s pretty much the same as the “you’ve got to have money to make money” thing.

Now look into yourself, your very self. You’ll surprisingly find that this law has been living inside you, in and out through your skin pores. Look at what you have, what you always risk in order to obtain more, look at how you’re given more of it. And look at what you don’t have, what you’re so afraid of losing because you’re so aware of the minimal amount of drops you can contain in your plastic cup, or for that matter of scarcity, nothing but the palms of your hands. Look at how it’s all taken away from you, you’re allowed to have it for a short time, only to see it vapor in no time.

Some people, they’re just born into a situation of abundance, and as they grow up they’re given more of more abundance because at times of testing, they’re not afraid of risking what they have, as many that have been living in abundance outrank those who haven’t. Some others – born into scarcity – they’ve got used to living in wanting and lacking, hold everything dearly for the fear of risking blinds them from seeing, understanding, and obeying the law. They sit, stand, mate, sleep, eat in their homes only to watch the roof’s being taken away, then the door, the windows, and the walls.


On Hands

I wandered through the rooms, the faces I’ve known for years. The smell I can tell apart. The hands, I once in a while want to hold them in the cold.

My mother’s hands, hefty with air and long fingernails. All else she might neglect but her nails. Freckled, dotted with small islands.

My father’s, skinny hands, skillful, frequently tremble. His edgy bones show up, his pipe-like green veins remind me of transparent death, his skin looks almost like glass.

My brother’s smooth hands, a hand that can draw and paint. Once smelled of tobacco, the hands I envy.

Their hair a sea of scarcity. Their backs, a reminder of everything but their faces.


eight now

First time buying six books by the same author, I guess I’m obsessed. Bought these second-hand books here for roughly 20 euro in total, what a steal. The guy (apparently the owner) said: “you’re buying all the Steinbeck’s. Remember that we’re buying back from you for half the price when you’re done.”