By Herman Lim, Saga’18
While this poem is centred around the theme of home food, in many ways it is also about the cheeky relationship that I have with my mother. Food in my household becomes ubiquitously associated with my mother’s marvellous cooking.
I have chosen to write this poem in the traditional Malay syair style, where each stanza represents a unified idea. The lines within each stanza, therefore, end in the same syllable. I have also included the Jawi spelling, the Arabic-based Malay alphabet used exclusively in the Malay Archipelago prior to colonialism, and is still used in some parts of the region today and continues to be taught in religious schools.
Kakiku basah disimbah hujan
Sinar mentari benam perlahan
Berhidup jauh, rindu tak tertahan
Pasti ku pulang mencari hidangan
Roda mindaku bergolek memutar
Akan ku singgah ke dapur sebentar
Tak sabar ku rasa sehingga gementar
Mungkin ku terima ayam yang dibakar!
Fikiran berlari ke hujung dunia
Masakan apakah yang akan disedia
Dihidang ibuku, manusia jelita
Dengan sayangnya, untuk keluarga
Tak kira masakan apapun bangsa
Paratha, kwetiau, semuanya dia bisa
Janganlah disiapkan ikan sahaja
Semenjak kecil ku tak berapa suka
Ku tolong menaruk segala perkakas
Disusun teratur sampai ibuku puas
Perkakas didapat dari Pilipinas
Milik ibuku yang begitu khas
Tibanya ibuku dengan sebiji periuk
Penutupnya juga diatas, termasuk
Ku lihat di dalam, mataku menjolok
Ternyata kepala ikan menengok
The rain has left my feet wet
The light of day is setting slowly
I can no longer withhold my longing (for home)
Surely I will return in search of sustenance
The wheels of my mind, they twist and they turn
In a while, I would have arrived in the kitchen
Impatience and hunger are making me tremble
Perhaps I might receive some baked chicken!
My thoughts are running to the ends of the earth
What dishes are being prepared?
Served by my mother, a human of great beauty and virtue
With all her love, for the family
The culture (from which the dish comes from) is irrelevant
Prata, kway teow – she can (cook) anything!
Just don’t prepare any fish –
Since I was young, I have not enjoyed (its taste)
I assist in setting the tableware
Arranged to my mother’s satisfaction
Tableware obtained from the Philippines –
my mother’s prized collection
And now, my mother arrives with a big pot
With the lid that covers it, too
I peek inside, and my eyes protrude out!
For the head of a fish stares back at me.