by Theresia Pratiwi 


Corpus 1. Place: pops-a-dent repairs. Duration: three weeks. Location: Jakarta. Attachment: pictures of the fronts of the repairs.

“Subhan Ketok Megic”

“Ketok Magic Ashari: Providing Care for Your Car Since 1990”

“Mas Mardi Ketok Mejik: Trusted Since 2000”

“Ketok Majik Benny”

A dented car in, a smooth car out, no matter
the spelling. In fact, fuck the spelling fart.
In the meticulous brown hands of
these mechanics, magic pops and
varies. It no longer belongs to white witches
and ostentatious grammar classes.

Corpus 2. Place: truck paint shops. Duration: three weeks. Location: Jepara. Attachment: pictures of finished trucks.

They paint the the meat as a joke
about a Javanese demon. Funny
how you can only joke about it
in English, they say. Never dare to evoke

the demon’s name in Javanese. The more

nonsensical the English is, the funnier they are
in Javanese: the me is three then be are the kill
then be young care rock, all which
have taken me a long time to understand—

much less laugh.

Corpus 3. Place: city streets. Duration: three weeks. Location: Solo. Means: Overheard phone conversation.

Where are you going?
Lunga, my mother said, to the bank.

Where are you?
Lunga, my mother said, from the bank.

All but one president speak the language, and still
journalists can’t tell their close from its open
mid back rounded vowel sibling, still

butcher presidents’ names one after another.

What a complicated language them journalists speak,
my mother says, unnecessarily so
she who takes my go as its leave sibling.

Theresia Pratiwi: Of Javanese descent, I grew up speaking little to no Javanese due to my parents’ moving away from the language and the epicentre of the culture: my birth place Solo. I picked up what was left of my Javanese from every summer visit to my  grandparents’ house and through many meetings with Indonesian non-skilled workers—or, in the Javanese words of Indonesia’s founding father Soekarno, through “umyek’e wong cilik nggolek mangan.” English, on the other hand, thanks to formal education, American comic books, and The Golden Girls, has become a more familiar ground to me on which sidestepping sociolinguistic landmines is less nerve-racking.


Theresia Pratiwi has an affinity for the weird and the magical in literature. She holds an MA in Applied Linguistics from Old Dominion University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland. The poem “Corpora” is her first submission to Cha: An Asian Literary Journal.

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