O kila na vanua era soko kina
When I was a child, nobody
mentioned the prim little man wearing tweed
who stood behind my frail, pale grandmother
carefully taking her words
and putting them in their place
in an old tin the colour of yaqona root.
Grandmother sat in her upright chair
her knotted ivory hands clutching
a faded postcard of women with fragile grass liku
and hibiscus in their hair.
I never understood why the man
took some words and not others
as he took door and laugh and apple
but left her with governor and daughter
and o kila na vanua era soko kina?
The old woman seemed mostly not to notice.
Sometimes, though, if the man reached forward
when she offered up her words to me with her lips
she would hold onto them with her teeth
and he would tug until the words snapped away
leaving only crumbs on her tongue.
Everyone’s eyes slid carefully around the man
as he picked Grandma’s words one by one
till all she was left with
and au sega ni kila.
Liku = skirts made of fibres
O kila na vanua era soko kina? = Where are they going?
Au sega ni kila = I don’t know
Currently living in Hertfordshire, UK, Anna Milan’s poems have appeared in publications such as Under the Radar, Eye Flash Poetry, Black Bough Poetry and Ink Sweat & Tears. @annamilanwrites