There's a poem in bahasa indonesia, titled "Aku Ingin (I want)" by Sapardi Djoko Damono, translated to english by John H. McGlynn. This is the english version:

I want

I want to love you simply,
in words not spoken:
tinder to the flame which transforms it to ash

I want to love you simply,
in signs not expressed:
clouds to the rain which make them evanesce


What I want to ask lies on the last line, especially the word "make". This was originally being questioned in a blog post (in bahasa indonesia). The OP caught that make usage, and his post caught my attention, thus I asked it here to get more understanding of it.

Seems like for Indonesian who reads the poem in bahasa indonesia, the last line interpreted as "rain that makes the clouds vanish". Just like the first verse interpreted as "fire that burns tinder to ashes". Thus, the word make on the last line should have be used by rain, that would make it makes. But in the poem's english version, make stayed make, make it looks like it's used by the clouds. Meanwhile on the first verse, both tinder and flame are singular, thus hard to know to which transforms is used.

My question is, why is it make, without s? Is it a different interpretation, or is there some kind of poetic usage on that word, or is it a common usage for english poem (by english poem, I mean poem using english language)?

Sorry for broken english, and in case I asked in a wrong place, please tell me where should I had asked.

  • 2
    Your suspicion is correct - the sentence structure calls for "makes". But it's a poem, after all. Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 3:04
  • 1
    Nice catch. Well played!
    – deadrat
    Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 3:36
  • Hehe I'm not the original asker though, it's just that reading that blog post, it's indeed interesting (well, much part of it because it's a poem I really love), and make me very curious as well. Question edited to give the original asker more credit.
    – Konayuki
    Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 4:00

1 Answer 1


It doesn't seem as simple as the comments above suggest. The translator used transforms instead of transform. That means using make instead of makes was also intentional.

I want to love you simply, in signs not expressed: clouds to the rain which make them evanesce

You have to take "clouds to the rain" as an antecedent for the relative pronoun, which. In other words and more details;

tinder to the flame (antecedent here) which transforms it (it means tinder) to ash

clouds to the rain (antecedent here) which make them (them means clouds) evanesce

Tinder is something that causes flame and gets burned by "flame" to ashes. Literally, it causes its own death.

Clouds are things that cause rain and get washed out by "rain" to disappear. Literally, they also cause thier own death.

It is "very" logical and grammatical to use "make" instead of "makes"

Does it make sense to you? Hope it helps.

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