A selection of poems by Anita Patel

Zen Geese
Makan Angin  (Eating the Air)


Fete day.
Balloon burst of sky
stretches bright over asphalt
and stalls spring up
(all the old favourites).
Chocolate wheel
in pride of place
under powder drifts of wattle blossom
sweet scented as coconut ice.
Always the same set up.
That’s how we like it.
The mums new permed
summer frocks swirling.
The dads in shirtsleeves
a squadron of megaphones.
The children everywhere
lolly spittle sticky lipped screaming.

An hour to the grand opening

and the aunties arrive
purple, saffron, peacock green
a gaudy flotilla,
kohl eyes flashing,
dupattas flying, sandals flapping
rapping out orders
as we follow behind.
They billow and jangle
-a rainbow tangle-
across the asphalt.
We slink along in hipster jeans
halter tops and platforms
and feel the eyes

(hard blue burning
bright like the Australian sky)

on our brown skinned backs.
‘’m bloody not serving their
stinking curry,’ mutters the bravest of us
and we make a break for the lucky dip …
An hour later munching on sauce soaked snags,
swinging on the arms of our Aussie mates,
pulling strings of spitty stick jaw sugar a foot

from our greasy gobs –

we notice a  spicy waft of
vindaloo and kofta in the air …
They are eating it everywhere
even the blokes from the sausage sizzle
and the blue rinsed lamington ladies.

Bangle brandishing ladle dipping
bazaar bantering,
the aunties dance gleefully –

sub continental witches stirring
their cauldrons.

Zen Geese

Our backs painted
yellow by warm winter sun,
we gaze out to sea –

blue on blue collage
cut and pasted  childishly
cirrus scribbled white.

Castles wash into
salt water – flags and turrets
vanish as we watch …

wet sand remains and
a scatter of sticks and shells:
glorious flotsam.

Then they arrive
straying carelessly past us,
six geese on the beach –

mystical guests from
an invisible farmyard:
we look on amazed

as they sail away
disappearing forever
like the afternoon.


You have not earned the right
to use this word,
a white professor said to the
Persian girl
as he ran his eye over her
poem. And filled with shame
(at her own presumption)
she scratched out four letters
that she had not earned
the right to use.
The word disappeared
along with her mother’s laugh,
the sizzle of turmeric in a pan,
cool floors, lemon trees, the heat of
summer sand, a honey cake placed
tenderly into her mouth,
her heart dipping and lifting
like a wayward kite,
scoldings, kisses, anger, fright …
brushed away like messy crumbs
from a rich man’s table …

Then suddenly she saw her pen
remake the word (she had not earned)
And in the lovely shape of it
She felt her soul return …


Poppies flaunt their coloured frocks
an instant festival on my

This morning they sat
in a florist’s bucket
waving wildly at passers by
(sassy girls in crumpled silk).

She stoops to rearrange their skirts.
The poppies shimmy on undaunted
and we share a glance
over a dance of sunshine, coral and red.

‘A party in a vase …’
I proffer the metaphor shyly
with my loose change.
It hovers between us for a moment
(a tiny gift of words)
then she smiles and reaches out for it
and I put the poppies into my basket.

Makan Angin  (Eating the Air)

I eat the air of
my cold city,
frost flavoured
mouthfuls  of
high country blueness,
Saya makan angin di kota ini,
(Angin yang terdingin)
Bagaimana rasanya?
Tanpa bau kelapa
atau harum melati,
No hint of coconut,
or jasmine in the
frozen breeze –
and my feet
scrunch through damp drifts of
brown and gold
beneath a pattern of bare branches,
Pasir panas dan sawah hijau
pun tidak ada di sini …
Tapi saya senang berjalan
di tepi danau terang
sebagai kaca bening …
Makan angin
di kota dingin,
No hot sand or green rice fields
in this place …
But I am joyful
walking by a glass lake …
Eating the air
of my cold city.