survivor’s remorse, guilt city

(after wiji thukul, tr. eliza vitri handayani)


a knocking-on-clavicle rage, my

concrete block of shame wrangles day round the neck with poems

that say outright what they aren’t:

naiveté-shine poetry.

unmarred by innocence, they’re

hunters with nothing to ask, made of jinn-hints that settle in the dark,

licking words,

spinning me thin as, ecstatic, they

burn in their own pile of sweat,

not stopping ’til my mouth gasps shut, they


are force of bloodied reminder, push

to cradle one

body’s history in another

set of rules, to

belabor in a school made of year-bricks, to get

at the massacre we’re born upon, as poets whisper on newly-made skins, ‘you got out’.


*Poet’s note: Wiji Thukul is an Indonesian poet-activist who disappeared in 1998. This poem is in a form called the golden shovel, created by Terrance Hayes, and is based on Wiji Thukul’s verse, as translated by Eliza Vitri Handayani: ‘My poems aren’t poetry / They’re dark words, they sweat / They push one another to get out’.





Winged creatures dazzle night sky,

illuminated Japanese sea crabs,

leg spans four metres wide,

in flight and oceanless.

This is my dream of kiamat,

Muslim school-educated endtimes—

the earth expels its bowels,

frantically, rings of volcanoes

shudder their violent excrement, holy fire,

onto the earth so ash clouds

may cool it. Darling oh darling, we say

to each other, Oh sweetling, oh

may it all be enough to stop this boil.

Furious marine life steps out of

roiling maritime, flies flung-out into the air,

stratosphere deluged with the last

of blue whales, the pockmarked grey of

coral reefs’ corpses, rickety flotsam,

gone in such few years by Earth’s watch.

All of the sentient sea is airborne,

haloed in a whitish-blue, luminaries.

I will hold up your hand and wave it

to the cephalopods, changing colour

as they hit the smokestacks’ fury of ash,

their arms swathed deep in cerulean glow.

I wish, you’ll whisper, and one will point

two tentacles out towards you as if to say—


(b. 1985) is a writer, poet and interdisciplinary artist. She has been a highly prolific practitioner of think/do advocacy in the arts, particularly on the ways in which innovation in storytelling can increase justice for and by disability cultures and feminisms. Born in Jakarta, Okka works, teaches, and is published internationally, in print and online. Her lectures, performances, workshops, and/or projects have been presented extensively around the world. She has a masters from ITP at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and received a PhD by practice in Goldsmiths' Visual Cultures Department. Okka was Modern Poetry in Translation’s Inaugural Poet-in-Residence, and is now Researcher-in-Residence and Research Fellow at University of the Arts London’s Decolonising Arts Institute.



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