The Ride Home

 Pop the kickstarter out and give it a good go,
the machine and my knee are both screaming ‘sakeeet!’
All the stares manifest like I’m putting on a show,
sweaty back, hot sun, and now some pain in my feet.

 Impatiently I wait as she warms up her pipes.
Onlookers look on, judge and jury of this trial.
One more try – there she goes, now she’s singing just right.
Say my red-faced goodbyes and move on bule-style.

Matthew Moynihan navigates Indonesian culture as he winds through the streets on his motorbike.  (Matthew Moynihan/Indonesiaful)

Matthew Moynihan navigates Indonesian culture as he winds through the streets on his motorbike. (Matthew Moynihan/Indonesiaful)

 The warm wind’s friendly but the smell’s unfamiliar,
my bike and my belly both let out low groans.
Not sure where I’m going but it must be far,
I’m passing endless houses but could any be my home?

 Odometer’s broken so I can’t check my speed.
Should I stop and smell the durian or just ride on?
No time to question whether or not I should be
on this road I’m dodging traffic flow and pylons.

 Day becomes night but I neglect the sun’s tumble,
busy questioning the question of my purpose.
Awakened at times by my bike’s alluring rumble,
she says, “ride through this rickety road, it’s worth it.”

 In my mirror I glimpse a warm moon too distant:
the cat and the fiddle play tunes I can follow.
An urge to stop and listen- but I resist it,
the shine of moonlight makes the street seem less hollow.

 Soon my bike is singin’ a silky lullaby,
smoke clears and the faces on the street now appear
as faces to which I am pained to say ‘goodbye’.
Now stern stares turn to wide smiles that ignite no fear.

 Tank’s empty so I stop, but the timing’s just right,
I watch the faded moon fall gently behind me.
The shine of the sun reveals a most inviting sight:
a thousand lips resounding one “Selamat pagi”.


bule: Indonesian word for ‘tourist’ or ‘foreigner’
durian: a very smelly but tasty Indonesian fruit
Selamat pagi: Indonesian greeting meaning ‘good morning’

 About the author: Matthew Moynihan is a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant at SMA Negeri  5 in Palembang, South Sumatra. He graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2013 with a degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology. He has been greatly impacted by the Indonesian cultural phenomenon known as ‘Keep Smile’.     

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