Khairani Barokka, Indonesia
When the brown tongue of water
rises up to meet us here,
the house will be gone.
While inside the minds of islanders—
cushioned on the hills
of this sinking spectacle
of cardboard, blood, roads
twisting on each other like yarn
and neon, the flash of a
smile for the cameras,
journeys for food,
immune to eviction,
the rasping grey of the air—
we will be none.
Specks of paper floating
and mooring to the curb,
collecting under a tent
and against the grate.
While inside us,
we will never have felt
more present in the world
nor deadened, alive to the whims
of rivers and the sea, and bare.
Meaning bolts itself to hunger,
like the promise of fleshy
endless layers in a rice grain,
soft, half-fermenting, caught
under the folds of a nail.
Into our dreams will seep slowly,
until soaked with them,
paddy fields withered with drought,
or heavy and drowned; pebbles and glass
under trucks rushing manic to the capital,
bringing and wresting, oil drums, men,
boxes of ginger candy, forests of logs,
chairs made of water hyacinths.
Reprinted with permission.
Published in Rope (Nine Arches Press, 2017), first published in The Poetry Review.
Khairani Barokka is a writer, poet, and artist, who has presented work extensively in thirteen countries, and has received six residencies and multiple grants. Among her honours, she was an NYU Tisch Fellow, and is a UNFPA Indonesian Young Leader Driving Social Change. Okka is creator of shows such as Eve and Mary Are Having Coffee, and most recently co-editor of Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (Nine Arches), author-illustrator of Indigenous Species (Tilted Axis), and author of poetry collection Rope (Nine Arches). She is a Visual Cultures PhD Researcher at Goldsmiths and can be found at http://www.khairanibarokka.com/