I ... entered the poem of life, whose purpose is ... simply to witness the beauties of the world, to discover the many forms that love can take. (Barabara Blackman in 'Glass After Glass')

These poems are works in progress and may be updated without notice. Nevertheless copyright applies to all writings here and all photos (which are either my own or used with permission). Thank you for your comments. I read and appreciate them all, and reply here to specific points that seem to need it — or as I have the leisure. Otherwise I reciprocate by reading and commenting on your blog posts as much as possible.

13 November 2010

Balinese Time

The bride’s sixteen-year-old cousin
wore one white flower in her hair
(frangipanni). She herself
was beauty in bloom.

We had time to gaze,
standing about in the courtyard.
Honoured to be asked,
we made sure to arrive promptly
but nothing seemed to be happening.

Where were we meant to sit?
When would the priest turn up?
With such a long delay,
why did no-one look tense?

I approached the bridegroom’s aunt,
our chamber-maid who invited us.
‘When does the wedding start?’
She smiled, waggling her fingers. ‘Oh,
when we are ready, we begin.’

Gradually the courtyard filled.
Reaching for a delicacy on a passing tray,
I was politely admonished:
‘The old ones first. It will come to you.’

During the tooth filing ceremony,
that sacred Balinese ritual
without which they could not wed,
the bride was pale with fear
and brave, uttering no sound.

Her headdress was like a cupola.
The groom wore a long jacket
of bright embroidery, red and gold.
A gamelan orchestra played into dusk.


Three weeks later, we had the rhythm.
You can’t walk fast in floppy thongs
nor try to hurry the tide. The buffalo
move slow in the paddies, as do
women with baskets on their heads.

The chambermaid asked, ‘What time
do you make your tour today?’
‘When we are ready, we will leave,‘
we said. Then we all laughed.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 9
Prompt: a ‘go slow’ poem.

Submitted in May 2013 for dVerse Poetics: 'Asians Are Ugly!' (We are invited to write of our own Asian experiences. This is one of many poems about my Bali experiences, which taught me that Asians are beautiful.)


  1. I'm admiring this whole Bali series. It's like time travel, and a little holiday in a country I never went to and now never will. Thanks!

  2. Glad you're enjoying it! For me, quite a trip down memory lane.

  3. The sense of time is different in every country and culture ~ For some, time is being punctual, while for others, it is time, when it is time ~ Enjoyed this cultural glimpse very much ~ Perhaps we can learn to slow down and enjoy the time ~

  4. I like that relaxed way of doing things. When we are ready we will begin.....I think I am going to adopt that. No worries about rushing around. LOL.

  5. when we are ready is a good speed....teeth filing? err...need to look that one up...has to be interesting as well having to learn those rituals on the fly like that...interesting verse rosemary

  6. Ha ha, I love that everything happens in it's own time...when you're ready...now that's something we could learn...here we just create stress living to the clock. Very nice visit!

  7. Excellent! The wedding, the learning,the readiness!

  8. Oh I so love this........in Tofino, the place I love so much, everyone is on "Tofino time" in much the same way......

  9. Loved this, a little bit of Bali time sounds healing

  10. very cool...we can learn that from the asians -- doing things when we're ready for them.. just talked to some european friends who live in india now and they said that one of the things they love over there is that no one ever is in a hurry

  11. Great travel poem, and I think it is good to have our idea of time shaken up every now and then. I think some Indonesian weddings go on for days? For my own wedding, I just wanted to get to the honeymoon!

  12. fascinating coverage Rosemary....a good reminder of simply enjoying the moment...excellent! smiles...

  13. headdress like a cupola...great image.

  14. " jam karet" means elastic time...one never really gets used to it:)


  15. I'm glad this struck a chord with so many who are used to the often oppressive Western attitude to time.

  16. We were there last year and could connect all that here!

    1. Akila, I'm so glad to learn it hasn't changed too much in 30 years!