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fantasiesA fairytale borne out of the all too real destruction of the natural world, Khairani Barokka’s Indigenous Species takes the reader on a dreamlike journey through the rainforests of Kalimantan, Indonesia. Forest fires, factories, pollution, and smog have eroded the landscape over the years. Through her vivid collages and poems, Barokka angrily mourns the jungle’s death, and collapses the distance between the land and the unsustainable mass production its exploitation feeds. Written in English and Bahasa, the book is interspersed with the word “Braille,” written in Braille, a gesture which echoes Barokka’s project of refusing invisibility—for the disabled, for the polluted land—especially when it may be easier for some to look away.



Image description: On the river, a factory pollutes the air, emanating a cloud made of polluted textiles.

Hard to tell from your
Silence where you’re taking me.
But I’m guessing
It’s loin-deep in the place
Where they’re collapsing
Entire cosmologies
Into pulp and paper,
Where the length of time
We can stay where we were bred
Before our stories turn into
“Proyek” and palm oil oozes away,
Shucking down like lightning
The seconds before we leave
Because we have to.

Image description: River water and spurting waves. The word “Braille” in Braille is in the background, indicating where translations would be in the Braille version.

Image description: A large lipstick tube is in the centre of the page, with lipstick made of green rainforest. On either side of it, river waves jut out like flames, white textile water at the tips.

I bet you, from the raucous
Machinery I’m hearing
And the smell of rashness,
That this is where the grease deals
Are siphoned into miners’ food.
And where they are packing down
Eons of intricacies and strength
From the forest to molecular form
On a woman’s lipstick bottle in Iowa,

Image description: A landfill-like hill of supermarket goods. The word “Braille” in Braille is in the background, indicating where translations would be in the Braille version.

Image description: Three children, seen from behind, watch a TV sitting on top of the hill, in which the battered girl’s eyes above a river are seen.

The likelihood a child will know not to generalise
The word “Dayak” to one tribe
Frittered down to cardboard boxes
For the rubbish metropolis
Of Bantar Gebang outside Jakarta,
Where kids sift through the vomit
Of our haste and money
And they smack their lips.

Image description: River water, tinged with mercury, flows. The word “Braille” in Braille is in the background, indicating where translations would be in the Braille version.

Image description: The girl’s mouth, in river gravel, opens wide to reveal a cloth flower in dirt, as bright river water tinged with mercury flows out of her lips.

Are you giving any time
To the waves of energy
I’m sending you
From this internal monologue?
I’m telling you, mister, Don’t mess with me.
They used to breed
tigons and ligers for show,
Half orange stripes and half ruddy mane.
They bred me the same.

Savage-savant, prime “primitive”
To the ends of my toenails,
And so this hatred of wearing heels
When they can’t be run into the dirt,
And that is the point, to my thinking, of feet.

Excerpted from Indigenous Species, courtesy Tilted Axis Press.

Khairani Barokka is most recently author of debut full-length poetry collection Rope (Nine Arches), author-illustrator of Indigenous Species (Tilted Axis), and co-editor of Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (Nine Arches). She is a PhD researcher at Goldsmiths in Visual Cultures.

The Transpacific Literary Project is a platform for writing from across East and Southeast Asia. Read the rest of the work in this portfolio, Fantasies.

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