The Dark Cracks of Kemang

That old childhood saying ‘pick what you want from the tree of life’ simply not working anymore? Becoming a foreigner in Indonesia might be as good a stab at something new and rewarding, as anything…

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“That old childhood saying ‘pick what you want from the tree of life’ simply not working anymore? Becoming a foreigner in Indonesia might be as good a stab at something new and rewarding, as anything…”

Armed with a teaching contract, some poems, and a guitar-playing buddy, Roberts discovers a potentially life-changing experience in 2013. And so the Bajaj Boys make themselves at home.

Indonesia is revealed as a challenging but welcoming land of ‘instant millionaires’, ‘beautiful rubbish’, abundant romance, powerful religion, and unnerving history.

Nasi goreng, alcohol, cigarettes, bajajs, motorbikes, a gentlemen’s club, poetry gigs, wild animals, and electrical storms weave together, as the dark cracks of Kemang open.

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Jeremy Roberts

Jeremy Roberts was born and raised in Auckland. He has a BA from the University of Auckland, which sparked his passion for poetry. Over the course of his career, Jeremy has worked as a neon light-maker, a teacher, a visual artist & an MC at Auckland’s Poetry Live. He has also travelled extensively, collaborating with a number of musicians. Jeremy currently lives in Jakarta with his wife, where he teaches at an English language school and works with local musicians.



is a staircase more
useful than a ladder?

is turquoise prettier
than blue?

is a knife more decisive
than an axe?

a cloudy sky has
a different meaning
from a clear one.

such as? You might ask.
well, it’s your life –
& you must decide.


in the moment!

one more evacuee
from a hundred million moments

zigzagging in rain – among strange rubbish, dirt,
busted concrete, & revving monster motorcycle-mash of

I was seeking a pathway home, in a smoky blue dusk
& failing as only a foreigner can – absolutely!
to hail a taxi…

yet, there was laughter inside my aching heels;
sanctuary inside the eyes of the riders,

as I started to unfold that old Siddhartha Gautama stuff
about our thoughts making the world –

& curiosity felt good
walking further up the number line than I had for quite a

easy words, familiar ghosts
left behind

replaced by

new doorways
tickets to shadow plays
calls to prayer.


the temporary tree outside my window is bending –
furiously, in the wind; anchored.

it’s a class act.
wind is a free-ranging show pony – lacking finesse at

unable, say – to slip exclusively thru portals,
tending to fly straight into anything it approaches

but forever regulating power, changing direction.
I’m envious –

floating in the pool, watching lightning overhead –
stuck on how much we gaze.

an intense outflow of electricity in the air – occurring within
clouds, among clouds, or between a cloud & the surface of the

relentless precision, interaction –
an exploding nest of verbs!

my behaviour?
not so tree-like.

freeze-frames of choosing & tasting –
the details of which are ultimately lost in summation:

an existence –
somewhere between waiting in line

& riding the tick-tock click track up to the final
roaring descent.


what did you think your life was going to be like
on these old roads –

with second-hand information,
limited skills & only so many miracles
to go around?

& time –
thundering like an angry, virus-spitting bull –
running hard at you, in your own doorway?

& what of Cezanne’s thing?
everything in nature reduced to a cylinder, sphere
or cone?

you’ve done pretty well relating to those shapes,
squinting thru the alphanumeric confusion

& dealing with all the famous metaphors…
including the ultimate “thousand-yard stare”.

how are you supposed to react to such mystery?

mistakes probably won’t matter

when the world becomes colourless, the wind visible
& the light – solid in your hands,

as you pull yourself away
from the world.


at the Taco Express down on Lamar
Che Guevara stares from a wall –

watching a couple struggle
with a crossword puzzle.

the woman – I’ve seen an hour before,
browsing in a sex shop.
the man she’s with is focused on something
not in the room.

above the bar is a yellow plastic sun with a clock face,
hands stopped – probably for years

& we’re fine with that, because in the beer-sign light
you can read the paper & drink a $3.50 Margarita
on a Monday morning –

tapping out a little dance with your fingers on the table top,
quietly pondering normal stuff:

how damn near the same all our lives are;

the hairy notion of bonding with something in the ether;

whether it’s time for a personal revolution –
if you could actually pull it off.

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ISBN : 9781922830067
ISBN: 9781922830067, 9781922830050
Tags:, ,
Page Length: 354
Weight N/A
Dimensions N/A

Ebook, PB


ePub, PB, pdf

Customer Reviews

1-5 of 4 reviews

  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    A chronicle of interactions with expats and locals, interspersed with impressions of Indonesia, Roberts excels in short, sharp, observational verse. Ripe stuff indeed. You might find yourself simultaneously amused and repulsed. If you’ve ever wanted to be a fly on the wall at gatherings of expats, this is your chance.

    – Kenneth Yeung, Indonesia Expat

    July 21, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    In 2013, poet Jeremy Roberts did something few of us have the guts to do: he looked at his Auckland life, decided he’d supported his musician daughter on enough gigs, and dared himself to squeeze in some adventure in the third quarter of his life.

    Age 53, Roberts agreed to spend a year teaching at NZ International School in Jakarta, a city of 10 million in a nation of 271 million. The move was pretty ballsy. In fact, The Dark Cracks of Kemang, published nearly ten years after his adventure began, is entirely a meditation about finding the beautiful exhilaration of daring oneself to live more adventurously. Why’d he do it, and why’d he write the memoir? Because Roberts is obsessed with rock ‘n roll. It’s his religion.

    Roberts is today settled in Napier, running Napier Live Poets, various page projects, and regularly interviewing poets on Radio Hawke’s Bay. To stand up in the literary landscape, though, required a Hero’s Journey. Roberts found that to get the guts and the experience to become a poetry leader instead of a poetry follower required going all the way to a strange country, thrusting himself upon unfamiliar stages in an unfamiliar culture for countless gigs, and trusting a colourful Manchester socialist to be his on-stage companion, playing guitar while Roberts waxed poetry.

    The name of the poetry duo Roberts created in Jakarta was The Bajaj Boys – named for the three wheeled tuk tuk taxis which thousands of expatriate international teachers like Roberts relied upon to get around a city so humid that Roberts’ leather jacket turned mouldy in the cupboard.

    In the spirit of wild writers like Hunter S. Thompson, Jim Morrison, Patti Smith and Sam Hunt – all of whom get discussed in the book (remember, rock is Roberts’ religion), The Dark Cracks of Kemang flits between English and Bahasa Indonesia and back again.

    Just a couple of pages in, we get a description of the bum-washing hand-held bidet device known as ‘semprotan air’; then again, the book covers Indonesian food, language, clothing, customs, corruption, religion, attitudes – as well as taking an objective look at the attitudes of Roberts’ peer Western teachers, for better and worse (one teacher mourns the vibrators which Customs confiscated at the airport).

    Each page is wide-eyed with fascination at the colourful country of 17,000 islands. You’ll find yourself engrossed in a first person personal poem about Indonesian culture before the camera lens zooms out and discusses what life is like for an expatriate classroom teacher, before Roberts veers back to his student days at Auckland Uni, to discussions of tropical storms, monkeys, and a tonne of cultural discussion told without any pejorative Western condescension. It’s pure fascination – Roberts is as impressed or unimpressed with Jakarta as he is Auckland, Napier or California (where – at the same time as Roberts is finding his inner rockstar, his famous daughter Eden Iris is doing the same in Los Angeles).

    Want a book which takes you on a three-wheel motorised rikshaw tour through a huge segment of the world’s population whom Kiwis hardly ever interact with? And would you like your book to discuss Ozzy, The Stooges, the Smiths, sweaty palms, c-dizzle, sex, death, and explain the Bahasa Indonesian word for ‘boring’ all on page 138?

    Read The Dark Cracks of Kemang and think about doing something exciting with your life, even if you’re 53 like Roberts. Write about it in steamy, sensual poetry. Record it and publish it on Soundcloud and YouTube – just like Jeremy Roberts has done.

    Michael Botur, Award-winning New Zealand author

    July 21, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    This collection of saucy tales and its contributing cast of misfits pulls back the curtain on the expat dream. A fascinating odyssey that titillated both the adventurous and depraved parts of me. I loved every second of it.

    – Darren Shrek, JGC Hall of Fame

    July 21, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    Jeremy Roberts’ book is one big poem and an open door into a culture I knew little about. It’s an easy read and a reminder to live your best life and grab freedom with two hands and a full heart.
    – Rebekah Burgess

    A psychogeographic adventure where poetry and life arise from one another, recounted with the intimacy of a late-night conversation over a few cold beers.
    – Ricky Day

    I just loved The Dark Cracks of Kemang. As someone who lived in Jakarta over 20 years ago, it was wonderful to read Jeremy’s words that encapsulated and invoked those heady days. It certainly took me back to some places I had forgotten! Jeremy has a brilliant way with words, every chapter and poem very evocative and moving.
    – Nicki Garrood

    It was funny, ethereal, uplifting at times, sad, squeamish, voyeuristic, reflective. A great memoir and terrific achievement to get it out of the ether, and onto the page. Thanks for having the courage to share this amazing time in your life. I am hoping that you have a sequel in the making!
    – Colleen Gray

    I was blown away by it. It is absorbing, informative – at times tense and confronting, but gritty and real. Move over Paul Theroux and Bill Bryson. The poetry is the conveyance that moves the reader along, just like its own little bajaj.
    – Tony Svensen

    I loved every word of it. But – NOT to be read before going to sleep! I found much in it that I could relate to and found myself lying in bed WIDE awake! Your book should carry a warning for older women like me!
    – Lynne Trafford

    December 6, 2023

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