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The following poem by Indonesian poet Annisa Savitri has passed through the hands of four different translators. Through these various readings and renderings, the translators collectively bring out the unstable negotiations between words and meaning, sweat and longing.

Menukar Rindu
by Annisa Savitri

jejak-jejak kaki melangkah dengan yakin
berjalan, tinggalkan kampung halaman
langkah yang terlihat ringan
namun sebenarnya berat: penuh beban
jauhnya jarak yang ditempuh
menembus langit, membelah samudera
tak membuat semangat mereka luruh
tak ada rasa takut mendera
untuk sebuah asa, mengejar mimpi
meski harus menggadai rindu
demi cita-cita ingin bahagia
sanggup menahan jerit, menukar peluh menjadi ringgit
terjaga di pagi buta
terlelap di malam yang singkat
akan terpedam lelah
saat teringat ringgit akan bertukar rupiah
kami adalah para pejuang ringgit
bukan hanya pejuang devisa
kami adalah pahlawan keluarga
juga pejuang mimpi
rela bertaruh nyawa dan harga diri
kami selalu rindu tanah tumpah darah
kami akan tetap cinta rupiah
tapi di sini, di negeri jiran ini
kami mampu wujudkan mimpi



Homesickness Exchanged
Translated by Ninus Andarnuswari

A sure foot struts ahead
Leaving hometown—off
With airy light first steps
Soon buried heavy
with burden

It’s a vast distance to wade into
We cross the sky, we voyage the ocean
With our spirit strong
With no fear intruding
For the sake of a hope, a dream
Exchanging homesickness

For this dream
We hold our scream, convert sweat to cash
We wake with the early dawn
Drop off for a brief sleep
Hide the exhaustion:
For ringgit will turn to rupiah

We are ringgit fighters
Not just foreign exchange earners
We are our family’s heroes
Dream fighters
Standing to give our lives, our self esteem

We long for our motherland
Bound always to the rupiah
But here in this neighbor’s currency
Is where our dreams may gather true



I Swapped This Longing for Ringgit
Translated by Norman Erikson Pasaribu

footsteps footsteps
left the house
long ago
lightly lightly
to ease
the shackles
footsteps footsteps
had to go far
that they grew into wings
smacked the sparkling sea
now folding
the fear
into nothing
but a dream, a hope
chased by
I put these feelings on the table
I put these feelings on sale
I put them here so I
can be
I put these scream into bottles
I trade these sweats for ringgits
I am here, still awake
when even the night,
that short-tailed snake,
has taken off her eyes
I am always drowned in lethargy, dear you, unsentimentally
but in my memory, ringgits keep turning
and turning
into rupiahs
I want to see myself as hero
can I see myself as hero
or someone
when you said I just fought for money
when I say I fight for a family
and I fight
for dreams, in dreams
while without my knowing my life
has followed my feeling
to the table
I will forever love you, my land who gave birth to me
I will forever love you, rupiahs who raised me
but I am here now
let me call you later, when my majikan’s asleep



To Pawn a Longing
Translated by Madina Malahayati

those steps tread with certainty
trudging, leaving the hometown
seemingly weightless but
reality is heavy: full of burden
how distantthe space traversed–
piercing the skies, slicing the seas
–none of that scrapes [our] spirit away
no fear exists [thrashing]
for just hope, chasing this dream
even if [my] longing must be pawned
for that vision of happiness
[we’re] able to swallow shrieks–
exchanging sweat to ringgit–
to be awake in the blind[ing] morning
to slumber in those fleeting nights
succumbing under exhaustion
[a reminder:] ringgit will change to rupiah
we are the warriors of ringgit
not only warriors of reserves
we are the heroes of our family and
contenders of dreams
willing to put down [our] lives and pride
always yearning for our [blood-split home]
we will always long for rupiah
but here, in this neighboring country
[we are able to touch our glimmering dreams]



Exchanging My Longing
Translated by Fajar Santoadi

These foot steps
Walk with confidence
Keep walking leaving
Our hometownbehind
Seemed light and easy
But no, full of burden.
So faraway have they travelled
Passing through the sky
Crossing the depths of sea
The spirit never faded
The fear never defeating
For a hope
For a dream
Must exchange the longing for a simple happy dream
Must hide the scream inside silence
Sweat changes to Ringgit.
Awake when morning is still blind
Sleep when fallen into briefly
Tiredness is only washed by the thought: Ringgit changes to Rupiah
We are warriors
Bringing not only revenue
We are fighters for family
We are fighters for dreams
Our life, our dignity—sacrificed
Longing for our homeland
We always will love Rupiah
But here, in our neighborland
Dream changes to Reality.

Annisa Savitri and Ninus Andarnuswari and Norman Erikson Pasaribu and Madina Malahayati and Fajar Santoadi

Annisa Citra Kasih Ayu Savitri is an Indonesian writer. Her poem "Menukar Rindu" was shortlisted in Migrant and Refugee Poetry of Malaysia 2018 and she participated in the migrant workers' poetry slam at the George Town Literary Festival 2018. She works in an electronics shop in Malaysia and is currently starting a business in Indonesia.

Ninus Andarnuswari is an Indonesian independent editor and translator. Born in the small town of Salatiga and graduated from the University of Indonesia, she divides her time between the literature, art, and science communities in Jakarta and is never able to decide which one she truly belongs to.

Norman Erikson Pasaribu is an Indonesian writer, translator, editor. Tiffany Tsao’s English translation of his first book of poems Sergius Seeks Bacchus received a PEN Translates Award and is forthcoming with Tilted Axis Press (UK, March) and Giramondo (Australia, May). Norman’s poetry and essay in English have appeared or are forthcoming in PEN Transmissions, Cordite Poetry Review, Overland Literary Journal, and Harana Poetry.

Madina Malahayati Chumaera is an 18-year-old student in Greater Jakarta, Indonesia. She is interested in the intersection between the humanities and the sciences. Her book CONTACT LIGHT: the void inside and out–a collection of prose and poetry revolving around the concept of the human brain, outer space, and the connection between them–was published by Gramedia Pustaka Utama in October 2017. She can be found on Twitter at @falsecatch and other places at

Fajar Santoadi is an Indonesian registered counsellor working with Tenaganita for migrant and refugee rights' protection since 2013.

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