by Dania Kamal Aryf
Its buildings sparkling like starlight by the Thames where the water below me flows like dreams, like tides,
flowing, ebbing, flowing,
floating along on a river of feelings,
These streetlamps reigniting
embers of attraction for former flames;
The coldest months of December and January found happiness and warmth within the dingy corridors of a cramped apartment in Stepney Green,
Santander bikes, cycling into the depths of the winter night like a fever dream,
Whitechapel rumbles in the distance.
The white noise of the city drums on like a heartbeat, homesick,
And in the morning I awaken to white linen sheets, white walls, white sunlight streaming through the windows draped in white curtains around its frames, the sound of footsteps upon the white pavements below.
The Central Line surges through the underground –
Holborn station reminds me of my mother’s hands.
Di Ibu Kota penjajah kita
Menara mentari bangunan menjelma,
Ruang berkembang, kesempatan bermaharajalela
kami berpegang pada janji
janji palsu, kata-kata manis mengejar mimpi di lampiran kota,
Terdampar tenggelam, berlari mencari,
di bandaraya bekelipan beribuan batu dari tanah airku.
From the vein of a colony, to the heart of the metropole,
Where buildings bathed in sunlight tower like an Empire of ambitions,
We hold on to bittersweet promises and half-truths,
Falling headfirst into the ground, sometimes drowning,
to be chasing after the dreams we yearn for,
in this sparkling city so far away from home.
Berpegang tangan lingkaran persahabatan,
Menari di bawah sinaran cahaya bulan,
Mencari camaraderie di Kota Mimpi,
Sehingga siang berganti malam, sehingga malam berganti siang,
Masa tergantung, memori dikunci dibawa lari
Umpama sinaran sepi embunan sayu,
hembusan nafas dalam keadaan berbeku,
Sempat lagi singgah makan nasi kerabu di Bayswater Kampung Melayu,
‘Smekom bang, nak order Teh Tarik harga £3 (tiga pound) satu.’ *
Hands interlinked, dancing under the moonlight,
We yearn for camaraderie in this city of dreams,
Until the days merge into night, and night merges into day,
Time hangs in a standstill, frozen,
and our memories become locked away.
In the silence of loneliness, foreignness, and Otherness,
The search for our identities binds us by holding on to promises
of a future much brighter than now;
Dalam diam sepi,
Mencari identiti, berpegang pada harapan tertunainya janji,
Kelihatan masa depan masih kesamaran,
kadangkala gelap gelita tanpa illuminasi,
kegelisahan umum, bukan hanya peribadi,
but friends in monumental moments pull you back down to remind you that;
Dreams above may be where your head lies,
but Home is where your heart is.
- Kota Mimpi – directly translates to City of Dreams in Malay, and text in italics are translations of the stanzas written in Malay.
- This poem was written in reflection after spending time with Malaysian friends in London over the winter vac in 2019.
- *Not sure how to translate this sentence without sounding weird so I didn’t, but for context there is a running joke among Malaysians that Bayswater is London’s ‘Malaysian village’ because of the abundance of Malaysian restaurants there. Also, ordering a cup of Teh Tarik (milk tea) costs £3 there, when it usually would be only 30p back home.