Belinda Lopez is a young Australian journalist working in Jakarta, Indonesia. Between writing stories and editing for an English-language newspaper in the capital, she has been hiking her way around the many islands of the country, jotting down poetry as she goes.
To Philip Larkin, from Singapore
With the promise of clean,
I was morally confronted
by sex shops, and fingers
entwined on trains.
Even still, sterility ran me inside-
a blessing I was alone,
I dived into solitude
like a finely sculpted boy,
I lunged in a store
where books are hailed the profit,
pushed past a muddled mess of man
who’d found solace in little words
and I searched for you,
L, L, L,
tongue flicking my palette fast.
Found an anthology from home
unknowns- even for poets-
that doesn’t matter,
they wrote of Glebe
and left-wing smells
you would have found it bum
so I didn’t buy it.
Oh God, I wanted to feel
Sappho Cafe and messy dusk
tuned to the love songs of
But you weren’t there.
So I left with E. E. Cummings
feeling like I’d taken home the wrong man.
Morning calls draw her up from bed
an icy splash to shock her into life
she refuses the hot water in the house.
And Allah takes in prayer as
cracked barefeet genuflect,
soles up to the unrisen sun.
Underneath her head scarf
her hair is black silk,
She removes the tattered cloth
and it falls around her like in the movies
and a woman of 40 is 18 again
dark eyes and cheekbones to the stars,
is this what he sees in crossed pictures,
before he delivers blue circles,
despair for emptiness and poverty,
sweat and truth:
that he is nothing, and she has the strength
he can only dream of in bubbly visions?
At parties I know politics like table manners
Our egos are champagne glasses
drink up, name drop
and see who’ll gulp it down.
The secret is subtlety
never mind that I tally up the
mentions in the rags.
Now at night I hold a pillow, not a
a spouse with good connections.
20 years ago I would be lapping up the
giggles, her watching me wriggle
like a worm between the sheets
I would have stopped for a blue
sky and wondered if something
bigger made it and smelt a beggar’s
musty breathe and felt my stomach sink
in love for him.
Now ecstasy is musty paper
with rows of little lines.