A Bloody May – poetry by Dadolin Murak

This poem by Dadolin Murak was published in May 2019 to mark the anniversary of “Mei Berdarah,” or Bloody May of 1998, when Indonesians of Chinese descent faced mass killings and rape and the Indonesian government washed its hands of mass violence. Dadolin Murak’s poem, published in Indonesian as part of the proliferating “Facebook literature” of poetic expression, is presented here in English translation.” It sings of memories of violence and and a contested memory of the May 1998 killings in which ruling elites still impose silences. Brutal rapes of Chinese-Indonesian women were hidden. As the poem recounts, their rapists took them to secret, empty places – dark corners, the insides of taxis with blacked-out windows, the vacant silences beneath Jakarta’s bridges. (Images come courtesy of Canadians Concerned About Ethnic Violence in Indonesia files.)

A bloody May

Dadolin Murak


Fire consumed

The houses

Of the children of China

All their possessions



Jakarta weeps


In the corners of bedrooms

Inside taxis, and

In the spaces under bridges

They wept … they cried out

Without shedding tears

They screamed

Yet their cries were silenced

Their throats choked


Bloody vaginas and grave wounds

They were raped one by one

Their violators unsated.

Next, stabbed

With beams of wood

Still unsated. Next

Their necks slit

Without quarter


All the generals

Pretended to know nothing

“This is beyond our control”

The authorities excused themselves

“This is mob violence”

Thousands of excuses

Smoothly flowed forth

From the mouths of the powerful


Decades later

The cries and screams

Still echo forth

From the spaces under bridges

From inside taxis

From hospitals, and

In every corner

Of the Capital of the Republic

Still the ears and hearts of the powerful

Still deaf, still closed.