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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 silver spoons

up the Mobay hills in Jamaica

past the flaked white walls

of plantation houses

past the canefields 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 saltfish

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 the 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

Raymond Antrobus

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