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Empathy for Cathedrals & Other Musings
By: Khairani Barokka
Empathy for Cathedrals
We come here looking
To stab down
Mystery in the eye,
Pursue it to the cemetery end.
Always still dying
A whole four centuries
Before the year
The Duomo is spent
With its own construction,
Pried from God’s will
And into the 20th century,
The year faith in stone
Is sighed out.
Ribcages enter the hollow en masse.
Candlelight on wrinkled moles.
The troubles crackling
Through the congregation,
Piercing the leather of holy books,
Letters scrubbed raw from the inside;
Eau de camphor,
And all the Marys draped pale.
Jesus has been
Why not his mother?
Observe glass stained with quiet,
And cracked palms on the seats,
And confession box.
From a childhood of Eids in fields,
And the courtyards of mosques,
I try to suck in this grown fear
Of darkness cramped into rectangles,
Of spiritual claustrophobia.
Makes confessing difficult.
I prefer the heights
Of ceilings over pews,
Vacuity might breed awe.
Tripods are lugged around
In order to modify
The contours of geology.
At some point in the unfathomable future,
Past any surviving relic of human species,
The universe will turn to liquid.
Three prongs dig lightly into uneven hill;
I stand before a camera; she nods,
Equipment is meant to suffuse
A catchment of all-but-stable minerals
Underneath our sandals, ground into
Distillable certainty: stand still.
At another point, time itself will cease.
A second is a mark in the universe
To carry pronged things across seas,
To then catch a blink to be edited—
Faces stitched together
In recollection bricolage
Of feelings traced by Kuala Lumpur—
Is a form of embalming,
Our faces in pixels
“Now, just stare.”
The Argentine marks
Slowness with rapidity,
Forests and our mouths aswirl.
The space-time continuum,
Stretched out digital.
Today, I read an article
That said, “The hydrogen
Of the universe will be exhausted,
And so all remaining stars will die.”
Living, evidence of.
All of us asking to stay.
Chéf de cuisine
Braised artichoke. Lamb hearts tossed with a sprinkling of aceto balsamico tradizionale, but not without the special ingredient slashed over both meat and vegetable—a secret from childhood, invented in the kitchen where she first saw death, swallowed grief by eating the carcasses of living things until the weight of killing lessened, and life became pains and fatigue she had earned the right to from decades of sweat. Such liquid out of her pores from trying, a straight line through to glory without looking to left or right, loves thwarted, uterus protected from end-bringing life, all time sucked into a licked-clean plate, a greasy pot, presentation that reminded one enthusiastic diner of a Goya. Enough perspiration to refill the basins of prehistoric oceans, now deserts where patrons flew in to taste her wares, adding, she knew, with the fuel of those planes to the weight of the change that would render us extinct, where she remembered for only one minute now, each slab of day: the sweet blood of undercooked chicken on her tongue the night her mother had slipped with the knife.BW
Khairani Barokka (b. Jakarta, 1985) is a writer, poet, artist, and disability and arts (self-) advocate. Among her honors, she was an NYU Tisch Departmental Fellow for her masters, Emerging Writers Festival’s Inaugural International Writer-In-Residence and Indonesia’s first Writer-In-Residence at Vermont Studio Center.
Okka is the writer/performer/producer of Eve and Mary Are Having Coffee, which premiered at Edinburgh Fringe 2014. She was most recently Artist-In-Residence at Rimbun Dahan, Malaysia. Okka has performed and taught across Asia, the US, Australia, and Europe, and is published in anthologies and literary journals in print and online. She has completed two full-length poetry manuscripts seeking publication, Pilot Light and Oil and enamel on linen: poems, and is working on a collection of lyric essays, among other writing projects; more info at www.khairanibarokka.com / @mailbykite.