4 Poems by Farhanah Translated from the Indonesian

From Masuk Toko Keluar di Tokyo [Enter a Shop, Come Out in Tokyo} (Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia, 2018)

Too many voices, they puddle in the ear and the megaphone 
stalks. The water’s cloudy, so much lost, sunk, floating,  
turns into phone data parasite bacteria. The intricate road looks full
of intersections that form the wrinkles on your face.  
Sorrows of years long past you hug tight each  
day waking the alleys beneath your lips, and on your forehead
a straight road of paved worry, and in the corners
of your eyes  a satellite tower where I look for the final 4G signal 
after bashing my phone over and over. A map with the most accurate 
projection in the world, that’s what I’m going to download to find the directions
to my head. Because morning is a repeat search for reasons and
waking up in the morning is a rebirth, without the crying and the call
to prayer in your ears, though with the same volume of silent sobbing
to yourself and a want just as big to crawl  
back into the womb. 

I forget like a peanut
how to barf you up
bait my gullet
and out you come, along with qwerty
a crash of fngers
is a barf bag
inside a barf bag
I secret myself until it gets stuffy
waiting for the bag to soften 
then I come out with cowardly
drips and drabs.

My friend I turned into a key 
to open the gate to the  
night market: carousel, cotton candy

and the wall of death  
the night market travels from city to city
ten nights per city  
a visitor will only come once  
or twice if not totally satisfied with once
or three times if they really need it once more
but not over and over again 
lest they come under the suspicion
of my friend the key  

Secretly I transformed her  
she hasn’t even noticed she’s the key
to your eyes, brimming with a ghost train
its four stations between our eyes  
the train bounces off the corner of your eye
and spills to your shoulders 

I turned my friend into a key  
to open you  
a folded smile and wrong number 
did you turn her into a key too?  
to open me  

Next time  
let’s just jump the fence

Riding a rapidly rocketing metal ball and lost
get yourself out of there before it blows and rusts
the little prince will show you the way
the way home, he says, but it’s a trick
because really who even knows
there’s never a way home
round-trip tickets are a hoax
you can only choose to go or to stay
to take a boat or a train or threads of komorebi
returning is a desire as strong as leaving
though you’re willing to walk for 2,511 hours
for some tea with rock sugar,
half a cup of coffee,
and weekend dances.

About the Author

Farhanah was born in Bogor, Indonesia in 1988. A graduate from the Universitas Indonesia, she now works as a digital security trainer and participates in creative workers’ unions and digital literacy initiatives. Masuk Toko Keluar di Tokyo is her first book.

About the Translator

Daniel Owen is a writer, translator, and editor. His translation of Afrizal Malna’s Document Shredding Museum was published by Reading Sideways Press. His other translations of Malna and Farhanah have appeared in Asymptote, The Brooklyn Rail, and elsewhere. He participates in the Ugly Duckling Presse editorial collective.

Image Credit: Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia, 2014

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