Taman Ayun Temple, Bali | Khaleel Gheba


There's so much gold in the dance—

the kris' handle, the attendants' necks,

Rangda's eyes careening toward

the audience. It's two men in a tarp,

you don't say as the sun drops

to distant surf. I can tell your shadow

is impatient, ready to return to

greener things, out there. Barong

is too, whipping his body until it

cracks. Heavenward tooth, hellbound

fang: which shall it be today? It's his,

I say, All of this is his. The dancer trips,

palms the ground, aligning all souls

with a smack. When the witch queen

is struck, she comes back tomorrow

at eight, and six on Sundays. Each

body’s volley is the hinge on which

we bend; one failure will create a roar.




Khaleel Gheba received his MFA in Poetry from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2014. His work has appeared in DIAGRAM, Redivider, Barrelhouse Online, Split Lip, Parcel, and elsewhere. He currently lives in Maryland, where he works as a public librarian.