States of Poetry Series Three - ACT | 'Wajah/Muka' by Anita Patel

Two words for face in my language:
Wajah from the Arabic wajh
rolls off the tongue sweetly
and melts like honey
in our mouths …
Wajah – a fitting sound for
the cherished tenderness of
a human face …
And yet …
I prefer the honest drum beat
of muka. An island word
harvested from salty seas and
fertile earth, blown through palm fronds
and tossed about in monsoon rain-
coconut redolent thud of pestle in
mortar – mu–ka
hammer hard syllables
chiselling the naked face
of my Malay ancestors …
When you lift the soft, saffron
silk mask of wajah
there is only muka.

Anita Patel