Friday, July 21, 2017


Poems carry thoughts expressed in many ways. There are poems that praise objects of nature being the manifestations of the greatness of God, the Creator. There are also poems that focus on common man made objects with no less great meaning. To illustrate this I shall pick up one of my poem originally titled  Kuali Hitam, The poem has been translated into English as A Frying Pan. More translators picked up the English version and turn it into Spanish, Rusian, French and Japanese.

Kuali Hitam/A Frying Pan is an example of a poem being expressed through a common object in any kitchen that is a frying pan.  But the thoughts and message delivered is not only the service of the utensil but a mother’s love and  sacrifices  in bringing up her children.  The poet says that a frying pan in the kitchen where she was born was her was her mother’s best friend

The poet remembered how her mother worked hard in the kitchen and around the house and may be in the field so that her children have something to eat. Nothing pleased her more than to see them enjoying their food.  

But they were too young then to see the depth of mother’s sacrifice.  They did not  realize  that the mother who hugged them lovingly suffered physically due to exposure to the fire in the kitchen year after year. The soot and smoke were hurting her eyes. Her skin scraped by the hot  oil. More than that when they were peacefully snoring at nights the mother could not sleep.  They did not hear her coughing   till the early hours since her lungs have been scratched by smoke and ashes.

The poet grew up and live in the city with her modern kitchen with shiny stainless frying pan /woks. One day the aged mother came and as usual  tried to be as helpful and useful. The mother cooked and after the meal washed the dishes. This is where the sad thing happened. The mother scrubbed a pan with a bristle brush the way she did at home. The poet was alarmed and  cried out that the mother has ruined her costly utensil.  The mother looked very hurt .

A few years later when her mother has returned to her Lord, the poet was in deep remorse. She realized her mistakes.  How could she raise her voice to a mother who have gone through such hardship to feed them.   How could she have valued a cooking utensil more than a mother’s love.


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

Facing the harbour =  Menghadap ke pelabuhan /  written and translated by Zurinah Hassan.
Creator:Zurinah Hassan,1949-
Publisher:Kuala Lumpur :  Institut Terjemahan Negara Malaysia,  2010.
Physical Description:xiv, 123 p. ;19 cm.
Series Title:Malaysian literature series.
Identifier:(ISBN)9830684881 (pbk.)
(ISBN)9789830684888 (pbk.)
Subjects:Malaysian poetry (English)
Malay poetry -- 20th century -- Translations into English.

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