In prayer there is dance

In prayer there is dance, and in love there is prayer.

by Lily Jamaludin

My life is a love story. Caesarean-ed out of my mother’s holy belly, crying as if already lost; first breath the hot humid air of the 90s, father singing a prayer into my baby earlobe, and I am born, woven in love and already loved.

But life as it can, unravels us. Your father’s fears won’t skip a generation, they are passed down to hold you. A new language can leave you exiled. A disease can hurt you in more ways that one. And sometimes a mouthful of tongue comes with a handful of gunpowder

So when I learned not to give a love unguarded, I gave it to language. I wrote poetry into the joints of my limbs, and the cracks of my skin, I dreamed in verse and handed it over, I gave a boy under a lamp post a Sufi poem that says break your heart until it opens.

Standing here, now, I am handing over to you

This heart. Still learning to open. This prayer. No matter how small.

That you never fear being human. That you stay soft, no matter how hard things may be.

That when you have to choose between fear and love, you choose love. And when your islands crumble you choose to rebuild. And when you can: laugh. Laugh harder, it sounds like sleigh bells in snow. Dance. Lose yourself. Like this: like In the music, and the lights, and the night time. Like this: Like Once, in mouth of the Iowa prairie, I held hands and spun in a circle moving at the speed of 80 proof everclear and the joy of a soon coming summer, somewhere in between the choke of a sob and a cry we learned we were something close to beautiful, or damn near infinite because we were




cotton candy

in greed i choked on a sugary bead
clouded in your stale cotton candy
the same succulent pink saccharine
rushed heavenly sirens into my brain
pumped sweet venom into my veins
into a charred blossom between our hands

a crooked offering
to the god of meant-to-be

in mercy
i pluck its petals from their dry nectarine
half-questioning, half-praying
– in old chanting;

exhaust this fire,
run out this spark,
unchill my spines,
unthaw my heart,
love me,
love me not,
love me,
love me not



(image source: Behance)

Broken Chord Party

To all the boys I’ve ever loved.

The one that was well-forbidden, the not-so well hidden,
one that came with a cover-up kit, one that came with benefits,
the only one that would have been, the many that never could be and the never will be.

You, are my Great Gatsby party.

My glorious shower of gold confetti. My swimming pool of pearls and silk.
My intoxication point of entry. And my tipsy burlesque dance routine.

With you, are puzzle pieces of my 26-year history.
The atlas of my chest, the geography of my belly.
The calculation formula for my laughter crease. And the residue of our explosive chemistry.

Naturally, you, are my mother’s worry.
My best friend’s curiosity. And my curiosity’s best friend.
Turning into my insecurity’s soul mate. My honesty’s bed. My fragility’s thin blanket.

My innocence’s end.

Through you, comes the gravity of my greatest fallings.
The microscopic view of my heartache anatomy.

And the verses of my richest literary piece.

Containing anecdotes of pleading the universe for an exchange between my two broken heart pieces and a pair of boxing gloves for fate-punching,
Multiple reconstructions of plots I had written around your dreams,
Countless color-camouflaging and character-breaking in and out of your skins,

And a repertoire of techniques for weaving you back into the story without compromising a happy ending.

Yes, you, are the memory-to-be of my youth parenting feat.
Of the moment I catch salt water on my baby girl’s cheek. Telling her that

“I’m sorry, honey, that you’ve inherited your mother’s hopeless romantics and slightly high-strung antics,
that there exist moments of us mistaking the frantic seasons of living for a soul apocalypse.
But, baby, never let anything but Life break through your lips.

Paint my fingerprint on your veins
as you take cover in the rain, curl up between warm morning rays.
If need be, travel the courageous road of peace-making,
or my less tactful route of poetry or song writing.

But never, end it on low C.”

Yes, to all the boys I’ve ever loved.

Despite all the numbing grips, splitting plucks and piercing bows,
your passing harmony’s left a refining touch on this instrumental front
that stands between the world’s sharp cold and my ribcage bones.

Behind which, every fibre of my muscle knows that our rise-and-falls
have ultimately composed me, so sophisticatedly,
that every chamber of my lungs knows I never want to leave no room for a symphony
that in the end moves me.

Despite of my bleeding fingers and cut strings.

The moment the light comes and the baton’s raised,
I’d play it all over again.
In gentler chord progression, more delicate rhythm.

To the first-part finale.
To the this-is-it, the soon-to-be, the always-will-be.

Yes, Amen. To the end of a grand search party.


14.12.13. – 16.12.13.

There’d be no ‘Us’, otherwise

Between you and I, there used to be an Us

There used to be a small room for air between our singlet fabrics as you led me on a waltz to Sinatra

There was a hardback Pinocchio book as you taught me how to pronounce the English ‘r’

Countless drops of rain when Mom had said that it was okay to play outside

And the back of my bicycle seat before you let go of your grip and release me pedaling forward slightly out of balance

But much to your reluctance, I had to grow up

I had to dance my own battle through reality’s weather with no one to say ‘I got your back’

And I had to start choreographing my own belief system since I found that the sky can shine and rain at the exact same time

So you had to regain your grip,

At first because you feared my losing control, but then because you couldn’t deal with my not asking permission to claim my own soul,

With realizing that I was never yours

And thus, began the loss of Us,

The crossing of the starting line of your unchallenged authority versus my conditioned suppressive apathy,

Of your screaming rage outside my door versus my remembering old jokes trying not to open a gateway of tears,

Of your timeless reasoning fallacy versus my premature rebuttal when ‘I can’t take this’ has built up like grey clouds, and ‘I’ve had enough’ bursts out like thunders with lightning,

Because you know what the problem is?

You never let anybody tell you otherwise.

You never let anybody tell you, “You know what, just let her go.

‘Cause if history ever tells us anything at all, it’s that force and control never result in love.

When you don’t want otherwise.

You want to be the one, who gives her away on her wedding day

To be the one, who gets to face the groom and say,

‘You know these arms have held her from within the first hour that she was born,
and the same way they felt her first breaths they will hold you at your last gasps within the first hour you ever hurt her to the bones.’

Followed by an I’m-just-joking-(but-not-really) bittersweet laugh.

But then you wouldn’t be at peace otherwise.”

The way peace has been erased from my teenage heart since the day I found that your approval stamp is only valid for wanting the things you want,

That your acceptance letter is only sent in the event of having convictions which you’ve certified ‘halal‘.

And you don’t want that.

You want a lifetime worth of father-daughter conversations that don’t sum up in your trial questioning and my failed legal defending;

That don’t end in your stating verdicts, laying down laws, and my running away like a fugitive.

I don’t want this fight.

And I don’t want my walking back with my ears constantly standing up to detect your ‘I disagree’,

My heels on stand-by mode to turn the other way around just so I could find the next stop where chains don’t bound me just to be.

And mostly, I don’t want my slaving my heart to try to embrace you freely because it shouldn’t be that hard.

To say, ‘I love you Dad’.

Because you’re the first person next to Mom who embraced me into life and whispered my welcome notes through the words of God,
Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar.”

And God, I’ve loved that life.

Maybe ever since then I’ve listened to too much and invested faith in too many other Gods.

And I know that you despise my justification of needing to take off my blind so I can capture the whole image of our existence, unified.

And I know that it’s easier to put me in a box and label it ‘astray, and therefore reroute’;

Tightly slip my worn-out innocent childhood wool cap down my 20-something ‘been there-seen that’ scalp.

So you can remind yourself that there was a point in time where you felt that I was owned.

Because I slept under your roof, and edged away with my spoon – your spoon – the broccolis I was supposed to chew down from the plates which you bought from the same bank account you drained to put me through school.

I swear, I understand the amount of what I may not be able to repay.

But it doesn’t mean that I owe you the pledge of where I choose to pray,

The lease for where I choose to rest my head,

The liberty to be my own Man.

But maybe, what I do owe, is the choice of which side I play for,

What I exhaust my lifeline on,

And what I'd die for the sake of.

And if it matters, to all that, the answer is Kindness.

The answer is Love.

The answer is Life.

At least, I try.

So cherish me.

Not because we spell out the same letters for a last name,

But because no spell can be cast upon the same kind of persistence we both act on behalf of our ideals.

Treasure me.

Not because we're identifiable by the same DNA make-up,

But because our carbon dioxide are made up by the same heart that would take a child into our homes and raise them as our own.

And don't condemn me. For believing in Jesus Christ, Muhammad and Buddha all at the same time.

Ring a bell in me, when I forget,

Light the fire in me, when I start to slow down,

In the leading with compassion, with tolerance, and shared wisdom.

But most of all, see me, the way I walk me,

Hear me, the way I speak me – not the way you want to make me, or the way I can never be – because, there's no other me otherwise.

And there'd be none of Us left, otherwise.



From the Pipe-Dream Whisperer

“Nature is not a place to visit.

It is home.”

~ Gary Snyder

So says the bamboo-framed glass board in the bamboo-framed classroom. In blue ink.

The teacher in cargo shorts and light blue polo shirt. Who probably wrote it.

My mother’s voice through her uterine walls.

My Mother’s voice.

“… It is home.” In blue ink.

In blue vibrations of my amniotic sac.

The doctor-guest speaker, who carried a goodies-filled suitcase and didn’t want to be formal, sat with the six year-olds like a story-teller.

Four things.

The intelligence of my half-grown peanut-sized brain to pick up my mother’s troubled sighs.

The incredible resilience of my fluid airbag.

The indomitable beating of my little heart.

Of my young thumb-sized heart.

Look across the room. If you can get to just one person. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.

“… Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”


Joint little hands around the world.

Unconscious hopeful emotions.

Joint little fingers clenched around the placentaic sense of my mother’s love.

Unconscious of hopeful emotions.

One person.

Oohs. Claps. Thank yous and smiles.

Door-less bamboo-framed classrooms. Pathway made of rocks.

Uncompromised trees. Irrepressible scent of manure. Non-soundproofed chirping of insects. Uncovered eyes of earth mounds.

The universe has demanded my attention.

My hope-unconscious attention.

But I’m not ready.

Not ready.

When the universe has demanded my presence.

My slimy, umbilical cord-ed, half-conscious presence.

“… It is time.” In blue vibrations of where-has-it-gone?

My mother’s voice. Through the lit end of a vigorously dilating tunnel.

Suddenly a person.

Reporting for life duty.

By the intelligence of my upside-down fist-sized brain. The resilience of my mother’s strands of fibromuscular tubular tract. The indomitable beating of our hearts. Our young novice hearts.

Not ready. Readied.

… Earth mounds. Pathway made of rocks. A Bali starling bird.

Suddenly a wasp.

A mustard yellow-bottomed wasp. Heedfully passing – fly walking? (two unused legs, upright-posture floating)

– on an invisible crossroad.

An unspoken mutual conception.

Because, one civilization.

The freedom-aspiring Bali starling birds. The rescue-campaigning orangutans. The attorney-seeking tarsiers.

The trees, hacked bloodless at their legs. The ocean, overfed with over-processed leftover diet plan. The fungi, single-handedly healing in their first-aid camp.

The fetuses that grow behind uterine walls. The little people that grow with little knowns. The humans that grow a memory loss. Of their mothers. Of their Mother.

… The universe has demanded my attention.

My palm-sweating, stomach-queasy, helplessly-conscious attention.

Of no more ‘them-and-us‘s.

“…It is time.”

My Mother’s voice.

Through the intelligence of a pipe-dream whisperer doctor. The indomitable spirit of an eager 14-year-old boy. The indomitable springtime spirit of joint little hands around the world. The gut-wrenching resilience of the mercilessly defiled ground which they – we – are standing on.

Hope. Regrown.

Because of one person.

Heart. Strong.

Because we are all that close.

Home. Common.

We’ve forgotten we belong. To live for.

Suddenly one queasy-stomached, belly-twisted person,

With an intelligent cantaloupe-sized brain. The most resilient-bodied of a Mother. An indomitable beating heart. An indomitable newborn fighting heart,


Reporting for Life duty. Right here. At Home.



“The sun shines not on us, but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us, thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing.”

~ John Muir

Written in response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Fight or Flight on November 26, 2012, a meeting with Dr. Alicia Kennedy from the Jane Goodall Institute Australia and Dr. Ating from Dr. Ating Foundation at Green School Bali on November 22, 2012, and the message of Jane Goodall on March, 2002.

Freedom as a Love Language

“Love is the ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves without any insistence that they satisfy you.”

~ Wayne Dyer

I’ve always thought that one of the biggest misunderstandings about Love is that it is often seen only as the manifestation of some form of an interference, whether in words or actions.

For example, they say that if you love someone, you should tell them how much, in conversations, declarations, songs, poems, or even books. They also say that if you love someone, you should show them how much. Through the gifts of things, the warmth of touch, the comfort of protection, the ease of service, the generosity of sacrifice.

I wouldn’t argue against any of that. In fact, should there be one, in the ranking order of Love manifestation, I regard sacrifice as one of the highest.

But should there be one, what would come in as the most Fruitful, to me, is none of the rest of the above.

The people whose Loves have Given me and are Worth to me the most, have manifested theirs through neither words nor actions, but rather through the absence of both.

Theirs is the kind of Love that places value in the idea that
despite their own belief system and tendency to impose,
regardless of them do I seek my truths, to them do I not owe my reasons.

The kind of Love that therefore lets its hands and tongue go,
and lets me tread the paths of finding the answers and explanations to my own questions.

The kind of Love that places understanding in the idea that
despite their natural concerns and tendency to own,
to them do I not belong, nor by them do I lead myself where to go.

The kind of Love that therefore lets its hands and tongue go,
and lets me be where I come to know the kind of peace that is peaceful to me, and the kind of meaning that is meaningful to me.

The kind of Love that places respect in the idea that
despite their well-meaning expectations and tendency to control,
by them do I not make my choices, nor from them do I claim my right to be my own soul.

The kind of Love that therefore lets its hands and tongue go,
and lets me give myself to something bigger than tradition, give my life for the only hope I have been blessed with from the moment I was born: to be of use to the world.

Not all the time. But most of the time. I do believe the absence of interference, the allowance of Freedom, to be a most fruitful manifestation of Love and its richest language of all.


And so another one’s driving off into the sunset… =)


One of the greatest gifts that Life can give

Is a journey shared between two souls of matching spirit

Two souls in learning with no intent of stopping, in walking with no intent of giving in

Each one plotting the road to its own mind, while learning the map to the other’s heart

Each one following its mission, while leading one another to a common direction

Each one carrying its own weight, while lending a hand to lift the other’s load

Each one paving a way to light, while weathering the same storm

With Faith as the start, Love as the ground, the Lord as the guide

For in such a journey are barricades crossed, are dead-ends broken away from

For in such a journey does Hope grow, for in such a journey do two souls find a Home


As written for Okta & Andy for their upcoming wedding.

Because, to be Loved by You

It takes a lot of guts for me to stand here right now,

because for a poet, I really don’t have much to rhyme about

For a grown woman I’m a cry-baby,

forever a child at heart;

with a blatant lack of flair for patience,

I kind of carry around a ‘hard-ass aura’

For a lady I’ve got a pair of very bulky calves

and heels that always end up dry,

visible stretch-marks and a slightly above-average BMI

On top of that I am tailed around by a mountain-heavy baggage,

having lived at least several grueling lifetimes

And for that I unapologetically

– sometimes publicly –


many nights;

and many times do I fall into a mode of automatic ‘Self-Destruct’

Then, there was you

You with your warmth,

your charms,

your inexplicable eagerness to be a part of this soap opera

And suddenly,

there was a need for me to be a little bit more –


To start having some kind of self-regard

And then there was that fear of being

– God forbid –


Because the idea of me unmasked

is, sincerely,

a nerve-wracking alarm

You see I worry about these permanently stamped dark circles around my eyes,

The oil pool of a forehead that no matter how much powder I mount it with,

still shines

And a well-supplied reserve of fat that hangs from my arms,

my thighs

And when you count for my teaspoon-size emotional control,

My fingertip-level of impressionability threshold before I give it up for love,

And how I make up my mind like how you’d cross a suspended rope on your toes

– swaying from side to side –

I really don’t have much left in terms of bragging rights

But, somehow,

I begin to care none for these hand-me-down, pre-programmed flaws


to be seen past all that by you…

And if you look back through my history,

Worse than Eve,

I’ve not only fallen for that forbidden apple trick;

I’ve climbed that tree and plunged from it freely

Unlike whoever that guy is,

I’ve not only ignored Pandora’s stupid warning;

I’ve hammered that box and dissected its every piece

And I’ve not only gone out of my trail in the deep woods like Red Riding Hood;

I’ve recreated paths, that lead travellers to dark cul-de-sacs,

just out of proving

Now I know, you know, they know, I’ve done a lot of bad things

(I radiate an afterglow of loyal grief and faithful guilt)

But to not be left by you…

And if they say, that humankind is God’s work of art

I won’t be found at some contemporary high-end gallery

Only in the living rooms of colonial houses that smell like the 20’s

Bordered by a frame that keeps changing,

each new one more polished and 21st-century in design

But within,

chipping paints and worn out colour shades make up this image

that no one can seem to fit into some sort of a schema

God, what the hell even am I?

But somehow,

I begin to care none whether they see me as a brilliant abstract,

or plain junk in aesthetic disguise


to be admired by you…

And just as I begin to withdraw,

in terror of being further found,

You put a ‘Priceless’ tag on the way I smile,

The way I feel –

everything extra,

the way I absorb every emotion twice the recommended amount

You find –


in the way my wild-child impulse still roams about inside,

You find strength,

in the on-going crusade between my penchant for self-corrupt and my desire to remain satisfied,

And most of all you find beauty,

in how my baggage-ful of mistakes, mysteries and cries,

made me who I am now

And who I am now, is still,

in every way,

impossible to define

But for a world that more than anything needs sugar, spice and everything nice,

is perfectly, enough


23.11.11 – 27.11.11.

As performed at The Red Carnival 2011 outside Sungei Wang Plaza on November 27, 2011.

Boy, ter-Interupsi (puisi)

Sudah cukup lama kutuliskan
Ceritaku, perjalanan panjang memburu autonomi,
mengabdikan jiwa pada daftar mimpi

Drama epik dibangunnya sebuah benteng tinggi,
Perbatasan antara aspirasi penuh inspirasi dan hipnotis peri-peri fantasi,
Penawar racun emosi,
Penjaga harta logika.


Namun dibaliknya, semakin sering kutemukan diri tersungkur tanpa daya,
tertangkap bayangan tak ter-lawan
Membawaku ke dimensi penuh warna

Dimana tanpa diminta, terbentang pemandangan yang kusuka


Gambaran damai sesosok manusia,
Hamparan lukisan indah dirinya,
denganku berdansa,
bersamaku memainkan musik dunia, tentangku dinyanyikan lagunya…


Tahukah bahwa itu semua, hanya kuncupan sebuah benih kenangan?
Seri pertemuan yang berisi tak lebih dari curian pandangan,
senyuman tulus yang tertahan dan kegaguman yang tak tersampaikan


Tapi tetap saja ku ter-rantai,
tetap ku terperangkap di dalamnya.

Dan ketika terjaga, imajinasi telah mengambil langkah raksasa
Jauh mendahului realita

Meninggalkan kesadaran yang tak nyaman,
dipermalukan kejujuran keadaan,
memaksa diri mengatakan,


Tak inginkah luka hati itu cepat saja datangnya?


Mengingat dengan masa;
infatuasi dangkal ini,
harapan mustahil ini,
semakin membodohi diri

Dan membuatku bertanya,


Akankah ku dibiarkan terlepas dari insting tak terkendali yang terikatkan dalam rusuk ini?
Mungkinkah dapat kuhentikan putaran otomatis mekanisme dalam tubuh yang tak bersinkronasi dengan gerak kaki?


Membuatku kian bersikeras,

Jalan setapak dimana kutinggalkan jejakku ini memiliki akhir tujuan;

Akan adanya perhentian yang menawarkan alam lindung yang selalu kunantikan.
Dimana ketenangan memberi makna,
dimana keseimbangan mengupahi terwujudnya asa; disitulah ku ingin berada

Meski diselingi sepi, meski dahaga akan sentuhan, meski diselimuti keraguan tersembunyi…


… Hei, suara apa yang baru saja kudengar?


Ah, begitu lincah akal sehat melesat dan lenyap dalam sesaat..

Kembali digantikan dimensi penuh warna.

Dan kuresapi bahagia selagi tenggelam…
Menikmati sebuah lukisan dirinya,
denganku berdansa.



I don’t know if that’s ‘Free’, to me,

For some, a sense of being Free

is that of roaming in the open air carelessly,

aimlessly, because-it-doesn’t-matterly

Of running on bare feet, across a white sandy beach,

against the softly-blowing wind

Of leaping off a cliff, thirty-feet above the sea,

diving into blue ocean cool that washes off tropical heat..

… that must be Free


I don’t know if that’s Free,

to me,

or a temporary release from a metropolist routine

If that’s Free,

to me,

or mere pumping adrenaline, rushing dopamine, from a kind of life not often lived

Like paragliding, wild-berry picking, star-gazing,

dragonfly-catching, being okay with dying

Funnily, to me, what I know about Free,


I find behind pink-painted walls that were meant to be peach

Where a flat sponge cake from egg whites half-beat is still served on royal tiers

Where coffee is best half-warm because somebody has let the boiled water cool chatting

Because every corner of a room is an ingredient for a good talk recipe

For the best potpourri of honest silences, peaceful disagrees and harmless mockeries


You see, to let imperfections be seen, to remain guarded as beauty is,

to me,


Where hearts are laid down carefully,

the broken, the healing, the failed-to-be-concealed

Where faith, or not, in God is not left out of grace-saying

even when served half-chilled

And nobody cares if the glass is half full or empty

as much as that someone’s INTJ, ENFP, ESFJ, ISTP, INTP, INFP or XXXP

Because having strong opinions is not nearly as important as holding up a firm identity


To know who one is, to be recognized for that is,

to me,


Imagine where heads and feet lazily meet

on a hand-me-down embroidered couch covered with worn-out sheets

Full of dry stains of spilled wine from bouncing over someone’s new promise ring

or raging over another’s news of disloyalty

Atop cushions that are warmly dented from accommodating tear-drying,

light hand-touching, impromptu counseling over ice cream


Now the right to feel completely, the right to truly be is,

to me,


Behind pink-painted walls that are decorated every section differently to honor diversity

That preserve smudges from pushed out chairs making space for those inside joke assemblies

That echo our distinct sounds of laughter and merge them into a timeless symphony,

Are eyes that see only the perfect shade of peach

Are live portraits of being just as we should be


You see, to love unconditionally, to be loved without boundaries is,