To Sweeten Bitter

By Raymond Antrobus

My father had four children
and three sugars in his coffee
and every birthday he bought me
a dictionary which got thicker
and thicker and because his word
is not dead I carry it like sugar

on a silver spoon
up the Mobay hills in Jamaica
past the flaked white walls
of plantation houses
past canefield and coconut trees
past the new crystal sugar factories.

I ask dictionary why we came here —
it said nourish so I sat with my aunt
on her balcony at the top
of Barnet Heights
and ate salt fish
and sweet potato

and watched women
leading their children
home from school.
As I ate I asked dictionary
what is difficult about love?
It opened on the word grasp

and I looked at my hand
holding this ivory knife
and thought about how hard it was
to accept my father
for who he was
and where he came from
how easy it is now to spill
sugar on the table before
it is poured into my cup.


"To Sweeten Bitter" © by Raymond Antrobus from The Perseverance, published by Penned in the Margins (2018).