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

Anita Patel

Anita Patel

Anita Patel has had work published in various journals including Conversations (Pandanus Press, ANU), Block 9, Burley Journal, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Demos Journal, Mascara Literary Review, and Not Very Quiet Journal. Her poem 'Women’s Talk' won the ACT Writers Centre Poetry Prize in 2004. She has performed her work at many events, including at the Canberra Multicultural Festival, the Poetry on the Move Festival, Noted Festival, Floriade Fringe Festival, and at Word in Hand in Glebe. She was the feature poet for the Mother Tongue Showcase at Belconnen Arts Centre in 2016. She is the guest editor for Issue Two of Not Very Quiet Journal.