Looms over the square, second
oldest edifice there, and stares
from teak wood shutters at Kota
Tua Plaza, whose gray bricks stay
filled with hawkers’ wares, street
circus stunts, and tourists’ rambles.
A monument to colonialism.
We enter smoking lounges flaunting
tall vases of exotic flora in cigarette
drift and whiskey scents—a Jazz
ensemble sits unused on the stage
under slow spin of faded disco orb.
We head upstairs to sip teas
with ginger and bumbu among
clinks of forks on porcelain
and stilted chatter of the West.
We look down on the spectacle
below—the rowdy mix of races
sweating while we remain aloof
among AC and a thousand framed
faces staring blankly from the walls:
movie goddesses, music heroes,
models—I search the thousand
faces and find only one Asian,
and he perhaps a dictator;
all others, Anglo.
I like this place my wife says,
let’s come back sometime.
I nod but can’t stop staring
at the Old Town beneath us,
and around us, and its spice
steaming in our mugs.
A hot sun sinks beyond the city’s palms and sprawl,
leaves mosquitoes and stickiness on our skin, and still
we’re sipping drinks of ginger and bumbu and
wondering why we’re here at all.