03 May 2008


by: Putu Oka Sukanta

My son asked me to buy him
Nine candles to put
On a decorated cake
Which said happy birthday
Just like one he’d seen
On the TV screen
I sorrowed for him in silence
For the money in my pocket
Would buy no more than the most simple dessert
He asked me to buy biscuits and sweets
To wrap in little bundles for his friends at school
To return the gifts they’d given him
I looked away
Avoiding the piercing gaze in his eyes
Because the only money left to buy the daily rice
On the night of the birthday, we ate
As usual, and I sat haunted
By the fear that he would ask about his request
Suddenly the power failed
He cried out and jumped down from his chair
Running off to look for the candles
He put out nine of them, and their flickering light
Seemed to burn right into the depths of my heart
Where I hid myself away from him
When the power came on again
He cried: let me blow them out
One by one
Then, as though talking to himself
He said
“It was lucky all the lights went out,
I go to blow out candles after all”.


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