Home Day 50

Si Tenggang’s Homecoming
by Muhammad Haji Salleh

the physical journey that i traverse
is a journey of the soul,
transport of the self from a fatherland
to a country collected by sight and mind,
the knowledge that sweats from it
is a stranger’s experience,
from one who has learnt to see, reflect
and choose between
the changing actualities.

it’s true i have growled at my mother and grandmother
but only after having told them my predicament
that they have never brought to consideration.
the wife that i began to love in my loneliness,
in the country that alienated me,
they enveloped in their pre-judgement.
i have not entirely returned, i know,
having been changed by time and place,
coarsened by problems
estranged by absence.

but look,
i have brought myself home,
seasoned by faith,
broadened by land and languages,
i am no longer afraid of the oceans
or the differences between people,
no longer easily snared
by words or ideas.

the journey was a loyal teacher
who was never tardy
in explaining cultures or variousness.
i am just like you,
still malay,
sensitive to what
i believe is good,
and more ready to understand
than my brothers.
the contents of these boats are yours too,
because i have returned.

travel makes me
a seeker who does not take
what is given without sincerity
or that which demands payments from beliefs.
the years at sea and in coastal states
have taught me to choose,
to accept only those tested by comparison,
or that which matches the words of my ancestors,
which returns me to my village
and its completeness.

i’ve learnt
the ways of the rude
to hold actuality in a new logic,
debate with hard and loud facts.
but i too
have humility, respecting
man and life.

i am not a new man,
not very different
from you;
the people and cities
of coastal ports
taught me not to brood
over a foreign world,
suffer difficulties
or fear possibilities.

i am you,
freed from the village,
its soils and ways
independent, because
i have found myself.

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