is she asian? tell me, is she asian?

she asks the man who withheld from me

the odds of reunion with this former lover,

a researcher in vietnam, caucasian abroad for phd,

suspicious of southeast asian enchantments.

she who orders him to hurt me in epistolary form,

she who shakes awake inside of him a dormant,

persistent ability to take words to hurl

at a brown neck once touched at night.

she in a haze of myth and precisely directed and target.

she who finds i am that which is asian, and thus

a mouth ready for grief, a dark repository of taking it,

an unsimulated attack destination awash in green palms,

a rice paper doll of seduction,

an enemy of her heart’s estate,

a villain not woman not tired not soul

not a structure of breathing cells

not gust of voice

not oxygen not flame

not even name.




one version of my horoscope

proclaims i will die abroad.


will i as imagined be elderly,

hair unfurled by seagull backdraft

on the edge of a ship, looking out

on infinite ripple. will i be thrown into

deep water, instantly feeding any toxicity

seeped into arm-flesh to whale sharks and krill.


will i reunite with my giant spirit turtle

below the crests, glow young again in tall seaweed.


will i as hoped for pass in warm sheets

with hands and hands and hands upon me,

kissing to seal in remembrance,

a barrage of mouths upon wispy skin.


will i smell as my grandmother kept herself,

perfection of calm scent, an earthen musk

of wisdom sans petrochemical spell.


they might torch it flagrant, diminishing wishes,

smoke of my bone infiltrating sour land, bottle-heavy seas.

Khairani Barokka is a writer, poet and artist in London. Among her honors, she was an NYU Tisch Departmental Fellow and Vermont Studio Center’s first Indonesian writer-in-residence, and is a UNFPA Indonesian Young Leader Driving Social Change for arts practice and research. She has presented work extensively, in ten countries, and is the recipient of multiple grants. Okka is co-editor of HEAT: A Southeast Asian Urban Anthology (Fixi 2016) and Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (Nine Arches 2017), author-illustrator of Indigenous Species (Tilted Axis 2016) and author of forthcoming debut collection Rope (Nine Arches 2017). Work is published in Poetry Review, The New Inquiry, Asymptote, and other journals, anthologies and art books. She is a PhD by practice researcher in Goldsmiths’ Visual Cultures Department.