“Prostitute Series, 1975-7”, Kaveh Golestan

This poem first appeared in The Aleph Review, Vol. 3 (2019); solicited by Afshan Shafi.


Khairani Barokka


Gelatin silver print on paper, she sits in a monochromatic corner, and I rest chipper in the curve of the walls (because my body sings of wanting the floor, so I understand )—


gelatin in the corner does not mean / cornered /. Silver print on paper does not mean Golestan captured her soul, “purchased with funds provided by the Photography Acquisitions Committee 2017”;


this one sold, laughed in her lifetime. All entrepreneurs find themselves needing to feed. At least one mouth.


Prostitute not sex worker not whore here not slut here not criminal here or what-is-here to discern, why here, how much of her face should signify artistry to us, and is gloom the goal aesthetic.


It was the seventies; I hope with all the firmness of those shoulders her gelatined body has found open home for all of these pried-upon years, lived an own lived name.



Photography by Soofia Says


Khairani Barokka is an Indonesian-born writer, poet and artist based in London. She was an NYU Tisch Departmental Fellow for her master’s, Emerging Writers Festival’s (AUS) Inaugural International Writer-in-Residence and Indonesia’s first Writer-in-Residence at Vermont Studio Center. Okka is the writer/performer/producer of, among others, a deaf-accessible solo poetry/art show, Eve and Mary Are Having Coffee, which premiered at Edinburgh Fringe 2014. She was recognised in 2014 by UNFPA as one of Indonesia’s ‘Inspirational Young Leaders Driving Social Change’ for highly prolific, pioneering international work in inclusive, accessible arts. She is author and illustrator of the poetry-art book, Indigenous Species, nominated for a Goldsmiths’ Public Engagement Award, co-editor with Ng Yi-Sheng of HEAT: A Southeast Asian Urban Anthology and co-editor of Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back, shortlisted for a Saboteur Award for Best Anthology. Okka is currently working on a book and visual works. Her first full-length poetry collection, Rope, was published by Nine Arches Press in October 2017.


About the photographer: Soofia Mahmood does communication work for nonprofits to earn a living. Her subjects of interest for the work she creates revolve around gender, social and religious norms, and stereotypes. She explores and mocks her own stereotypical identity as a South Asian Muslim woman through self-portraiture and words. Her work has been exhibited in Bangkok, Islamabad, Lahore, Dubai, Toronto, Lebanon and the UK. She has recently relocated to Canada and is working for an LGBTQ-focused charity as a communications manager. She uses the name Soofia Says for her art. Her work can be viewed at www.soofiasays.com.