Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Zooming Dreams

Once upon a time, I almost bought a car solely on its looks – a fastback Mazda Lantis.

The price was just about right at around RM50k, there was no major blemish to car’s exterior, the interior was clean and the Lantis simply looked fast even when stationary.

I was even ready to forgive its rather tight cockpit, but the laughable boot was a concern. An equally tight financial standing then put paid to any dreams of zoom zooming (sorry, just couldn’t resist this pun) in a poor man Alfa Romeo or something likewise.

Anyway, we ended up buying another car based on its looks alone, and THAT ended a huge disaster which has since put me of the brand forever.

Now, the car bug is back and I’m eyeing again the offerings in the second hand car market.

The wonderful world of the Internet means that I don’t actually need to hop from one dealer to another; not when sites like CarSifu makes the initial window shopping so easy.

Unlike those days of old when all you could rely on were words – one owner, no accident, showroom looks(!) – online window shopping allows you to actually view the cars in all their glory.

Of course, nothing beats seeing it in the metal once you’ve zeroed in on the possible. Running your hands on the flanks, tap tapping the bodyshell and the interior plastics to make sure nothing falls off without even the car being driven in anger; those kinds of pleasure.

Again it’s the Mazda that entices – this time around the Mazda5 midi MPV. Midi, I suppose, because they are just able to fit 7 in relative comfort and still allow some meagre space for shopping bags and other nit nats as oppose to the real MPV.

Sleek lines, looks smaller than it actually is and, just like the Lantis a few years ago, the 5 seems fast even when static and parked.

Again, realities of buying second hand intrude – maintenance, worn out parts and components replacement etc – do mean that this would still be a window shopping spree.

With the cost of living escalating like nobody’s business, it would remain so for the time being.

Zoom zoom dreams revisited, in other words.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Dandelion Dreams

Cool winds buffeted her as she ran the length of the field
Silk ribbons trailing, her hair, free, flowing
Carefree, she tiptoes over dandelion patches
Patches of whitish yellow pastiches in a canvas green

Clouds, intermittent, pockmarked a bright, bright day
A swirling kaleidoscope of a shadow light show
Rustling leaves hushed tones a bare din of vocal delights
The high notes - laughter, cheery and spontaneous

A tree older than the day’s age stood solitary
Casting a shade oval in shape a comforting cape
Of when the sun is too hot and the wind to cold
To kinder a simmer in play, a slowing of pace and wonder

Lying atop a carpet of grassy snatch untrimmed
She imagines – no, dreams – of butterflies flitting
Jostling and hustling, a whirly merry flight
Flower to flower, stem to stem in touches so slight

She closes her eyes and wishes the day would stay
For second to crawl, minutes to stretch, hours unending
Dawn to noon, to sunset to night as the sun and moon
Exchanges roles, forever saying hello and bidding goodbye

A voice, familiar, a touch recognized so tender
“Time to awake, daughter to shower, to pray
To don your uniform, all crisps and proper
Lest we miss the chime of the first bell ring

There was no field, a duvet the cool, cool grass
A dream? Alas, a sweet passing too soon
“But dad, isn’t today a Saturday, a day to stay
With you, mom, and siblings; to work and play?

Yes, dear, it was but for the decree
Of added hours, a burden heaped on shoulders barely able
The world is in a rush, you see, already behind we lag
You have to cover thus for the years we slacked

She sighs slowly
Her steps ginger
(but) the towel is smooth
(thus) the dream lingers…

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Bluntly Direct - A Review

I can vouched that there is easily a trillion books at the recently held KL International Book Fair 2011. Bookworms will be utterly lost in the maze of books, books and more books at the many, many booths on the - was it three floors? - of the PWTC building where the event was held last month.

So, how many books did I get? A miserly two for myself, actually. One on theology and the other, Usman Awang's Enslaved Soul; the National Laureate's anthology of poems written circa the late 1940s to early 1960's. The latter was in Bahasa and English, courtesy of the Malaysian National Institute of Translation.

I've of late taken an distinct interest in poetry, and was thus very eager to digest the book - far too much, in fact, as such I made the mistake of reading both the original penning of the late writer and the translated work one line to one line, Bahasa to English.

Midway through the first poem, Awareness (1949), I had the sudden realisation of the prose being lifeless, bland. You just cannot appreciate the nuances and beauty of poems by taking them on in such a robotic manner.

The life of a poem lie in the flowing, lyrical nature of its words.

Alone, the lines of a poetry will seem disjointed, meaningless. Together however, they resonate and capture minds, imagination. Vivid descriptions that rely wholly on words tied to provide the contextual scenes in the readers' mind eye.

I can therefore imagine the trepidation the author's daughter, Haslina ( and co translator Adibah Amin) had in tackling the task of translating some 35 deeply symbolic works of a bygone era.

It is simply next to impossible to capture the feel and flow of a poem no matter how beautifully etched the translation might be and in the case of Enslaved Soul, I must humbly submit that in most cases, they do not work.

Usman - popularly known as Tongkat Warrant - is quite direct in his language: a line from "Aku Sedar" - the aforementioned Awareness - goes: "baru bangun dari tidur mengantuk". The translation meanwhile goes "that I have just woken up from a heavy- lidded sleep".

You have to admit the lurid bluntness in the first is lost in translation (pun fully intended).

On their own - and read in context of the original poem in the back of one's mind - the translated versions do come out fairly well written if awkward in some places, resulting from - I think - the need to inject the patriotism slant of Usman Awang's work.

The majority of the poems in this anthology revolves around the Malays' struggle for identity, standing and independence, as well as reference to battlegrounds - I wouldn't say war, and death. The Emergency? Possibly, given the timeline of the writings.

His "Balada Langit Tua Manusia Sengketa" (1959) is a lengthy, theater sript-like poetry which is very, very explicit in its depiction of the horrors of the arm struggle of nameless (except for Si Kurus Lapar - The Thin Starving One) men.

The translation, entitled "A Ballad of Ancient Sky and Mankind at War" is nonetheless one of my favorite English read, the clunky title notwithstanding.

"Twin hills firmly enthroned
Like a pair of amorous giants
with thicket-like hair in the black night
at their feet nature's music whispers
song of a stream softly flowing
a cool breeze combs their summit."

How I wish I can write likewise. Read in its entirety, "A Ballad..." seems a standalone poem, especially if you don't have the original "Balada..." as a side by side referee.

As for the author's own work in this anthology, I love his "Pak Utih" (1954) best. The patriotic slants of his other efforts do come out too strongly for me, so the very easy going, laidback "Pak Utih" is a much welcome change in pace in very relaxed, easy reading proses.

However, "Pak Utih" only works in Bahasa, and not so effective in English, as the cynicsm (innocence?) is quite lost when translated.

I must admit that Enslaved Soul (Jiwa Hamba) is not an easy book to read in one sitting, due to the constant cross referencing of lines. While you do wish for a generally uninterrupted read, often times you find yourself curious as to the context of certain phrases, sentences, and use of words.

Unfortunately, this also takes away some of the enjoyment of discovering poems that just tugs at your heartstring and pummel your imagination with its descriptive prowess.

Enslaved Soul (Jiwa Hamba) is one of those book which requires several read and re read sessions to allow a fuller appreciation of the myriad of emotional outpourings within its covers.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Shaded Eaves

An orchard that’s hectares big
Its aft runs a - unsullied water - creek
Carpeted green hued grass that is inches thick
A horizon that shows just a glimpse of a snowy peak

The plot once barren is shared by brothers three
Plough, trough, shovel in hands, they were pretty carefree
Working the land, down in the dirt, their palms all sweaty
Dreaming of a day they could live a life free and easy

Three men, a trio of family, a single bungalow
Two stories tall, a huge balcony for moments to mellow
In times past, long days of working until the sun casts shadows
Building a life, a future but looking no further than tomorrow

Romantic endings are really bollocks in the realm of reality
So arguments, tensions and a locking of horns were quite plenty
Didn’t get in the way though of their focus on ideals so lofty
Of living a life together blessed by the God Almighty

Generations past the golden aims are starting to fray
Utopian objectives mostly unachievable could no longer hold sway
Divergent interest, selfish inclinations putting long held visions at bay
All eyeing for a bigger bite, a larger share, the proverbial payday

Now the graying grand bungalow is all crumbly and rickety
Its occupants too busy, too engrossed in the parlay
The plumbing clogged, cracks unplastered, basement unattended and dusty
Do they not notice, don’t they care, or just wishing these away

Then one day
When emotions were in play
A tweaking of notions
The setting of motions
A casting of doubts
The severing of already weakened clouts
A bullying an ousting
Of persistent mongering
Insults whispered aloud
Insolence mucked so proud
A cocktail of fear and hatred so blunt
A once brother thus shunned

I too have a say, he says
In this house to live, to play, to stay
You’re too much, the other two though countered
Taking everything and leaving nothing, they thundered
Amidst the rising litany of shouts, the eaves do tremble
Symbolic shame of blood relations once so humble?

Outside the creaking bungalow the wind rustles
Blowing fallen leaves tempering dusty panes and musty spaces
Forgotten plough, trough, shovel, rusting in shades
A bungalow, an orchard, a dream soon fades

Friday, 6 May 2011

Anonymous Thoughts

I wonder
Whose eye I saw the world
Whose words I hold true
Whose guide leads me forth
Whose beliefs I adopt and follow

Wasn’t it
You who nourished me
For weeks on ends
Selfish me, safe within
While you toiled, and sustain

Did I
Make nuisance a habit
A careless, sulky infantile
Throwing tantrums every so forth
While you smirked and roll your eyes

Have I
Ever moved you to tears
Hurtful words, neglectful acts
Expressive disdain over things mundane
Crushing hearts with hatred sustained

Could I (ever)
Bring the world to you
A cascade of joyful times
Buckets of grateful feelings
Cherished moments that just keep lasting

I wish
I knew the answers still
To read your mind hear your thinking
To save all memories for ease of retrieving
A threaded path to life, one worthy of living

It’s your day, mother
So, a world of love
From a son so smothered
Always indebted forever cared

You were
Always there…

Thursday, 5 May 2011

A Hermit's Tale

Far, far in the distance
Was a castle
Three stages tall
Its fringe a bridgeless moat
Of foamy, colourless river

Crushing surf impeded his journey
A sandy, footprint-less stretch
Glassy exterior layering a rocky core
Smooth, its surface shuns lasting touch

Skipping when he could
Crawling every when else
The construct looming closer
A lighthouse and a beacon
A red, fiery eye of hope
To sailors sailing blind
In rough seas, on tougher lands

A sudden crush of waves
Like a battering ram, pummeling
Lifting him in the air
A spineless doll crumpling
In a momentary heap, of topsy and turvy seconds
Amidst rocks, rubble and pebbles
Still he pushes, strongly he recovers

He stammers along gaily
Skipping the edges of craters fleeting
Watery graves, victims unsuspecting
Not he, not today, not easily

A touch away was his aim
Rocky, solid walls
A slight grainy texture
No windows no doors
A crooked pole, silent flagless
What manner of home, he thinks, so steep in blandness

A sudden laughter
From a giant of a shadowy figure
A thundery slamming, wrecking, ruining
Once a castle now a razed nothing

Startled, he stops dead in his tracks
As the air is filled with laughter and wails
A world of bullies and frails
A similar, revolving, revolting tale

Once a dream a hope no more
As a hermit turns its tail.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Walled Pretty

A man once lived in a box of wood
Four by four by four
It had clear plastic for its hood
And nothing as its floor

It has slits for windows
And flaps for doors
The upkeep cost is pretty low
So very easy to keep the score

Now, he leads an easy life,
No worries no stress nor strife
Lives on eggs and rice daily
Finds the humdrum plain lively

Money in his life, you can’t say plenty
Just enough to get him by
Prides himself of being un-bitchy
Content to let and watch time fly

Elsewhere the world was in a rush
A blurry of things, a torrent, a gush
Leaving slowpokes in a hush
Had all and sundry in its crush

Outside his box, the walls grows
Towering, dwarfing, casting shadows
The man became weary, scared and in throes
Thinking about the strange, strange bedfellows

Is it too late for me to change, he thinks
To opt for concrete, glass and steel
Cooped up like so would surely stink
Though his life, he sees an even keel

But what of his box of wood
Could he leave it behind well and good?

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Worldly Politicynicism

Osama bin Laden is dead.

Going into details the politics pre and post the alleged* death of Osama will probably bust my brain to the point of allowing dark grey matters to ooze out via the ear canals from my cranial cavity.

I say alleged* because conspiracy theories are still abundant of it all being one big fat propaganda.

Just like the Yankee Doodle Dee bit about his death bringing “universal peace and harmony”. Imagine heaping all that is wrong in the world on the shoulders on a single man.

Well good golly gooberleaches hunky dory molly polly wack, the golden age of the world is back, then, with the master villain finally rid.

Pardon the cynicism but the cheering and posturing of some (I assume) Americans shown during NTV7’s afternoon news was just too much for me to stomach.

Was it really necessary to insert THAT segment?

Callous really, to highlight such rejoicing over the death of any, including alleged terrorist cabal leader.

Remember the late Saddam Hussein’s execution?

Methinks it should have been edited. In death, there is a parting of one’s soul to be judge by our Creator, God almighty.

Watching the news was accidental as I was in fact waiting for the late Leslie Cheung’s The Chinese Feast.

So I endured Obama, Barack talking about how the special ops against Osama is NOT America against Islam, but instead against a man alleged to be the mastermind behind attacks that targeted all and sundry, muslims and non muslims alike.

(There was also a curious brief mention of his predecessor, George Walker Bush, asserting the same. Not sure why. Could be a reference point of sort for the general American public.)

Alas, the celebratory cross over snippet spoiled my mood to listen further to Obama’s speech.

Read in full today, I found that I didn’t miss much as Obama never did go into the whys alleged terrorists like Osama and his ilk came into being and there was a whole lot of US of A as world power’s posturing.

Hence the “USA! USA!” celebratory chants.

My ever favourite radio IKIM had Osama’s alleged (re above) death as its morning topic today and there was a gush of early callers who seems to agree with this outlook.

Yes, America is not against Islam and Muslims per se, but the general sentiment seems to be that its policies vis a vis the Middle East (especially Palestine and Israel) runs contra to this assertion.

World politics. You need steel-lined stomach for its smooth digestion.