Friday, July 19, 2013


The beautiful Princess Hang Li Po
In the voyage to Melaka
Crying in agony
So young and so tender
To be torn from her mother
Like a shoot from its root
She’d rather die
Drowned by the ocean
Then to lose the loving touch of her parents

Is this her fate her destiny
To be delivered as a gift, wrapped as a commodity
Shipped to Melaka
As a bride and a donation
That would strengthen the nation

Her mother, Her Majesty, The Maharani
Had spoken in tears
My beloved Li Po, please be brave
This fact we have to face
You and me what we are born to be
As queens and princesses
We do not own ourselves
Marriage for us is not a personal decision
It is a state arrangement, a political mission

Do not cry for your father
He is a man, and a king
He loves you as a daughter
But his kingdom is everything
He laughs and cry for the nation
The kingdom demands his attention
First the reign over his land
Family happiness come second

Yes Li Po
Look what history has written
Of empires and nations
Built and strengthened
At the sacrifice and tears of women
While many brought to the end
By misdeed and greet of men

Original tittle: pelayaran Hang Li Po
Translated by the poet.


Tun Mamat
Convey this message to the Sultan
Bring these as my dowry
If he wish to marry me

Build me a bridge of gold and another of silver
Bring me germs and mosquitoes seven trays of their hearts
Vessels full of tears and juice of young beetle nuts
From the king and his prince a bowl each of their blood

I knew from the start
That he is willing to construct the bridge of misery
Let the people carry the trays of agony
And bear the burden of heavy vessels of tears
Rack their life with flame of his own desire
Provided he could escape the fire.

Tun Mamat,
These conditions only show my rejection
As his queen I refuse to be
Seeing my life a murky reflection
I am not  Tun Fatimah
With the skill to forgive cruelty
I am not Tun Kudu
Who could be forced to  agree
It’s enough with Hang Li Po
Wrapped up as a gift, a legacy
Or Tun Teja who trip and fall
The lover she follow was only a shadow

Let Mount Ledang  stand  tall , a reminder to all
Of a flower that survived and remain free
Untouched by the royal fancy
Even a woman can choose to disagree
Even a king has his turn
to admit being beaten

( note: Sultan Mahmud, the last emperor of Melaka fell in love with Puteri Gunung Ledang (Princess of Mount Ledang) who appeared in his dream. The Sultan sent his men up the mountain to ask for her hand in marriage causing much hardship and unnecessary death. The beautiful princess send her famous message to the Sultan through Tun Mamat, the only man who made it to the top of the mountain

Tun Fatimah: agrede to marry the Sultan after he had killed her family

Tun Teja:  eloped with Hang Tuah only to find out that she was to be bestowed to the king.

Tun Kudu:  the queen who was given to a statesman  in exchange for stability

Hang Li Po:The Chinese princess  sent as a bride to the Sultan of Melaka


Tun Mamat
Sampaikan pesanku kepada Sultan
Jika aku ingin diperisterikan

Perbuatkan jambatan emas jambatan perak
bawakan tujuh dulang hati kuman, hati nyamuk
air mata dan air pinang muda setempayan
darah raja dan anak raja semangkuk

aku telah menduga
dia akan sanggup merentang jambatan derita
dia merelai negeri menjadi dulang sengsara
membiarkan rakyat memikul tempayan air mata
kehidupan terbakar dalam api berahi
selagi kepanasan tidak terpercik ke tubuhnya

tun Mamat,
sebenarnya aku memberi syarat ini
kerana aku tidak sudi menjadi permaisuri Sultan
dan hidup bercerminkan kekeruhan
aku bukan Tun Fatimah
yang pandai memaafkan kezaliman
aku bukan Tun Kudu
yang tahu merelakan paksaan
cukuplah dengan puteri Hang Li Po
yang terbungkus menjadi persembahan
dan tersungkurnya Tun Teja
ketika menangkap bayang-bayang cinta

Biarlah Gunung Ledang berdiri mengingatkan
ada bunga yang tidak dapat digubah
sesedap titah
seseorang perempuan pun ada kalanya
berhak memilik kebebasan
seorang Sultan pun ada kalanya
harus tunduk kepada kekalahan


I did not resist when they come with the keris
To take my life
If that’s Your Majesty’s wish
After all it is my own saying
That the Malays never disobey their king

But I do regret
That Your Majesty should forget
As every tree has its root
Everything has its beginning
The start and the origin
Demang Lebar Daun installing the first king
Sang Sapurba
They come to a treaty, an agreement
It shows that a king is made by his own man

Since then Demang came second
A Bendahara in status and rank
Even more he was the king’s his father-in-law
In the state protocol
Sang Sapurba is above all
But by family relation
Demang in a higher position.

Form there
To Singapura and Melaka
Bendaharas  are addressed by their tittles
Seri Maharaja, Paduka Raja
Seri Wak Raja
Which means king’s father, guardian of the ruler
For it is  true bendahara are pillars
The strength of the nation
The king heads the country
The Bendahara in authority
The king wears his crown
The Bendahara guarded his ground

The sharp keris of His Majesty
Pierced through the Bendahara’s body
The madness of the action
Has wounded a nation

A king is but a servant
To the rules that make him a king

Bendahara: a post equivalent to Prime Minister. They gained much respect even from the kings as they were usually uncles and father-in-laws of the kings.

Keris: a Malay weapon


Please God,
Give me the wisdom
To understand it all
Why the salmons frail and small
Made to fight the tide and struggle
Braving the meanders
And pebbles
Tearing scales of his chest
And wounded breast

After a long journey
He reached an unfamiliar beach
Exhausted and lonely
Regretting and longing for home
Thus with the rest of his life
He battled against the current
To make a return

Please God
Give me the wisdom
To understand it all
Why the salmons frail and small
With life so short
And body so tender
Make to fight the odds
In the mighty water


(riuh ayam)

They have long criticized me
For being too noisy
Even though they may not agree
My loud voice is a warning
To safeguard my offspring

To them it is more acceptable
To be quiet like the turtles
Until they loss their little ones
And deprived off their rights one by one

(inspired by Rimba Harapan- a novel by SN Keris Mas)

They have come
With power and dollar
To widen their mines and estates
Pushing us to the jungle lands
Pushing us to the hill slopes
So the jungles became our friend
And the hills our only hope

We have written our life story
A tale of misery
The shacks, our shelter shivers
In the rain of tears
Our crops crushed
By flood and blast
All these years we have taken
What the fate has written
But today we are utterly beaten
This is the biggest disaster
We have lost it all
Our land, our inheritance

Oh jungle of hope
Oh river of strength
My people are holding on
To their last lines of defense

Janda Baik situated in the state of Pahang is the location of the novel Rimba Harapan

( Jungle of  Hope) by Keris Mas. SN stands for Sasterawan Negara, the highest award conferred by the government of Malaysia to literary writers.

Monday, July 1, 2013


A frying pan in the kitchen
of the house where I was born
Was my mother’s best friend
All day long

The frying pan
And something being fried
For the children with appetite
Was my mother’s delight

The frying pan
Days and nights
On the fire
We did not count the years.

The mother who cared for the frying pan
Hugged us lovingly
did we look and realize
there was soot in her eyes
feel her skin scraped by the hot fries
her hand darken by smoke
her forehead touched by the heat
we were too sleepy after heavy meals
to hear her coughing, her rough breathing
her painful chest being scratched
by smoke and ashes

we were not aware
and mother did not care
she only knew the joy
of making us happy
eating with appetite
and nothing pleased her more
than to see us satisfied

That’s what happened year after year
the frying pan fulfilled its duty
until we were grown up and lived in the city.


And now in my modern kitchen
There is no ugly black frying pan
Whenever I have time to spare
And that is very rare
I cook for my children
In my non-stick stainless steel frying pan
Shining and expensive
And after meal I wash it carefully
almost like bathing a baby
With special soft detergent
Following every instruction

One day my mother came to stay
As usual make  herself useful
Cooked and serve my family
Her grandchildren enjoyed her cooking
And mother was very happy

After the meal
She  helped me tidy my kitchen
And as she used to do
To her frying pan
Scrubbed my expensive utensil
With a bristle brush
At once I cried
“you  have ruined my frying pan
Do you know how much it cost?”

My mum looked very hurt
There were a few tears
I must have looked very fierce.

And now my mum has returned to her Lord
Leaving me in deep remorse
Regretting the way I valued a cooking utensil
Much more than a mother’s love

My mother is no longer here
Hanging lonely on the wall of our old kitchen
Is the frying pan of her life
Can we give it a  price


Sebiji kuali hitam
di dapur rumah kelahiran
adalah teman ibuku
siang dan malam

Sebiji kuali hitam
terjerang di atas tungku
adalah penghibur ibu
ketika kami menunggu

Sebiji kuali hitam
di atas api siang dan malam
tahun demi tahun
kami tidak pernah menghitung

Seorang ibu yang menyayangi sebiji kuali
sering memeluk kami
pernahkah kami perhatikan
matanya yang ditikam serbuk arang
kulitnya yang dikoyak percikan minyak
lengannya yang diserap abu hitam
dahinya yang disengat pucuk api
kami hanya tahu lena kekenyangan
ketika tidur ibu diketuk-ketuk
oleh lelah dan batuk
setelah asap dan abu menggaru-garu
di paru-paru

Kami tidak pernah menyedari
dan ibu pun tidak peduli
dia hanya tahu merasa bahagia
melihat kami keriangan
menunggu sesuatu akan terhidang
dan tidak ada yang lebih membahagiakan
dari melihat kami kekenyangan

Begitulah tahun demi tahun
kuali yang setia menjalankan tugasnya
hingga kami dewasa dan hidup di kota


Kini di dapur rumahku yang bersih
tak ada kuali hitam yang hodoh
cuma pada kesempatan
yang tidak selalu sempat
aku memasak untuk anak-anak
dengan kuali non-stick
yang tebal dan mahal
dan sesudah itu membasuhnya
dengan sabun yang lembut
berhati-hati seperti memandikan bayi
mengikut arahan pada buku panduan

Suatu hari ibu ke rumahku
dengan kerajinannya yang biasa
memasak untuk kami sekeluarga
cucu-cucunya ternyata amat berselera
dan ibu merasa terlalu bahagia

Dan sesudah itu
dengan cara yang dia tahu
mengemas dan merapikan dapurku
dan seperti yang biasa dibuat
pada kualinya di kampung
dia menyental kualiku yang mahal
dengan berus yang kesat
dan spontan aku menjerit
"Ibu merosakkan kuali saga
tahukah ibu berapa harganya?"
Ibu terdiam
barangkali hatinya terguris
barangkali dia hampir menangis
melihat wajahku yang bengis


Dan kini
setelah ibu kembali kepada Ilahi
aku menyesali keterlanjuran
kiranya aku telah mengukur kasih sayang ibu
dengan harga sebiji kuali

Ibu telah tiada
kuali hitam tergantung sepi
di dinding dapur rumah tua
bolehkah kami menghitung
berapa harganya