There were coconuts …

(for my mother)

When my whole world ended
I learned to husk a coconut
for there were no more dinners
from fine china on the rosewood
table—but there were coconuts
angled neatly on the ground,
rapped sharp and deft with a mallet,
segment after segment of fibrous
outer skin removed
and the hard roundness struck
(with the blunt edge of a parang)
it’s all in the precision of that tap—
spilling sour water from two perfect cups—
and then the careful grating of each
half shell on a parut
the snowy flesh falling soft and sweet
into the tin plate of my new life …

Anita Patel

Listen to Anita reading ‘There were coconuts’ (1:29)

Note: This poem is based on extracts from my mother’s journals about the occupation of her country (Malaya) by enemy forces during World War II. But it is also a poem for the strange and uncertain times, in which we find ourselves, right now.

© text and audio 2020