Weekend Poetry: Three Poems

natural history museuM

for AS


edmontosaurus, coelacanth, animatronic

hypnotists stand vigil over lone paragraph,

wrapped in cocoon, on indigenous peoples’

uncredited gifts to european science.

dissected human women then throng display halls.


our feathered reptiles, mineral keychains,

armadillo taxidermy, empress arachnids,

espresso cues to purchase donation,

latin lingua franca of ancient, skewed orders,

visitors to kensington allowed to fly home

upon quiet capture by gift shops and cctv.


the key to survival is [y].

the cause of extinction is [z].


ghost orchid is wisdom, her presence skeletal.

rules all chances of escape, in the living,

from spirit preservation in transparent jars.


self-portrait as fern and stolen motorcar

near pentre, we breathe more deeply,

take in horses full-eyed, hedges

a royal salute for your father's car

trudging through. vehicle thieves

would joyride and leave sedans

spun around in a field. in the morning,

farmers would find an automobile

in its husk of used-upness to report,

dawn illuminating crime and silliness.

i find a little welsh-japanese girl

who’s been to bali and cling to her

and her mother, as flimsy, reaching stem.


in my clan of chaniago, as for other minang

clans of bodi, koto and piliang, leaving

is encouraged, as return and replenishment

of village with widened scopes is deemed

mandatory. there is the fern pattern in textiles,

the fern poem on cohesion, returning.


i swing like a bitty hyundai on a night ride,

finding myself amongst the sheep grazing

in welsh mornings. ferns watching, wary.


mawddach estuary is a glittermouth.

sand breaches both land and sea, half-bred.

coming from two islands supposedly in enmity, i relate.

javanese keep our knives at our backs,

sumatrans at our fronts; is middle ground

a chest prepared for both to pierce.

is seawater planetary blood overflowing.


would make sense then, what they say will happen,

haemorrhage into habitation. the bajau

have us all beat, as ocean-based peoples.

i close my eyes and imagine myself a bajau boy

who knows how to hold his breath until

the body quietly demands inhalation, who could survive

floods, heat, and isolation in white spaces

simply by going for the swims that are birthright,

each gulf a bay of earth-wound spilling welkin-tint

blood, a harbour in which to grieve and return.

  • Khairani Barokka is most recently author-illustrator of Indigenous Species (Tilted Axis 2016), co-editor of Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (Nine Arches 2017) and author of debut poetry collection Rope (Nine Arches 2017). She is a UNFPA Indonesian Young Leader Driving Social Change, and a PhD Researcher at Goldsmiths in Visual Cultures.

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