Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Faved!: Okka's Sliding Scale

It was Elaine Foster who somewhat introduced me to Okka (full name Khairani Barokka) via Twitter. She was coming to KL and there were some excited whispers of possible collaborations between Indonesian and KL spoken word artists. As I have already committed to last year's Georgetown Literary Festival, I watched from afar as Elaine Foster, Illya Sumanto, Abby Latif and Okka graced last year's Urbanscapes with their collective named Seronok and without a doubt, took the breath of a lot of people's brains that day. They recently wowed Jakarta the very same way. I never had the opportunity to meet her but I look forward to the day when we will finally meet.

Here's a poem that reminds me of a remark a friend made when we were talking about Okka, "She is intimidating." That day, I could only listen as I've never met Okka in person. I honestly wouldn't know. But after reading this poem of hers, I somewhat understood what my friend meant. If this poem is Okka, then Okka is f.e.a.r.l.e.s.s :) 

Okka's website . Okka's twitter.

What is it on a scale of one to ten.

Is it aching, burning, raw,
Enraged and radiating,
Agonizing. Stinging.
Stabbing; is it suppurating.

Does it feel like a carcass under two tons of meat pounder,
Up and down, eternity. An apex of weight.

Is it mother’s arm in the night,
The color of langsat,
Glowing radioactive as a Chevy truck
Arrives and crushes it, grates it to the asphalt,
Sparing only her rings.

Is it the mouth of a gash.
Sing it like a scream.

Who is invisible in there, is it malingering.
Is it attention you gouge out of knees
To bring them to the floor,
Joints and flesh uncertain of the stage cues.
Which act of empathy, fumbling,
All the world’s pity and disinterest and love
Disguised or amplified in all the same trembling sighs.

Is it the neighbor man reaching his hand
Inside, pinning you beady-eyed
Just when you catch him in the door,
Was that a nightmare.

Is it her face. Is it his. Is it their legs
In your covers, and wondering
Which of these many weak bodies
Is weaker than yours.
Who could you get more pleasure from
In which of their open wounds.

Is it a wound.

Is it a blister, a bruise, a boil, a pimple,
An ingrown curse from an ancestor
Thick in the face and spitting through the eons,
Heckling at your flesh to carve in it.

Did it begin when you turned the corner
And the street lights came on
And a cloud looked a lot like that hobo you pass,
And everything became a cloud,
And you passed out. Was it in the bathtub.
Was it in the cubicle.
Or in the lap of a terrified stranger,
At the point of a revolver,
Because this man is not what his mama
Always thought he would be, and this is money, kid.
This is money. And I will pay you to shut
The doors of hollering grief for good
If you eat this, swallow this, believe in these studies.
This is antidote ethereal, this will stop a world
Of grief and the need to speak it.
I love you, I manufacture these compounds
In a heart grafted of selflessness and cashmere
Concern, sugar in my giving veins, just sugar, baby.
Are you telling me you haven’t heard about
The mortgage like a noose and my own father’s
Slit in the chest, you think it comes free.

Is it squares on a board you were born into
That began with spices in trading ships
And men in peaked headgear who terrorized
Your ancestor’s chickens and worse,
So much worse you feel the sickening
Of history like a plague in all your parts,
And this came from my friend in school, miss,
Caught it from him, hysterical disease,
Are you saying colonialism didn’t give you the flu
Or are you just trying to get him in detention.

Must be going around.
Must be terror so dark it spits void.
Must be a needle in the lower eyelid,
Going through the cheekbone,
Must be the heat.

We are shedding so much of our baby-faces.
We are falling apart under all of our eyes,
I mean really, disintegrating,
No wonder muscles are always breaking down.
This is a planet of slough and hell,
If you are human skin.
Now is it dermatological
Or can you feel it in the bone.
I honestly can’t hear your answer, girl,
Are you dancing to show you can still
Make the party or was that a spasm
Or are you being clever.

What are these bales of letters on your tongue
When all I want to know is a number.

0 poetic mutterings: