O kila na vanua era soko kina – Anna Milan

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 
was duty 
and suppress 
and au sega ni kila.

Fijian translations 
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

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