Cafe Batavia

Café Batavia


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.

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