Decay

My grandmother made filling from nutmeg nibs.
Sometimes I gargled rum to numb the ache.
When there was no toothpaste, I brushed with salt.
For years, I chewed on the left or swallowed hard

foods whole. The day I had the tooth pulled,
I visited my father, who stuffed ice cubes between
my teeth. My sister fetched painkillers in the rain.
With him, everything was pain. Six years before,

when I first searched for him, I had forgotten his face.
On the beach where he worked, I called a stranger,
dad. Ashamed, I spat my surname into the sea—
even now, whenever I hear it, a part of me drowns.

Juleus Ghunta is a Jamaican poet and recipient of a Chevening Scholarship. He is pursuing a Peace Studies MA at the University of Bradford. His picture book, Tata and the Big Bad Bull, is forthcoming from CaribbeanReads in May, 2018. Ghunta’s poetry has appeared in several journals, including The Missing Slate, Moko, Easy Street, Chiron Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, and has been anthologised in Cordite Poetry Review 81: New Caribbean Writing and In This Breadfruit Kingdom. He was awarded the Catherine James Palmer Poetry Prize by Interviewing the Caribbean in 2018. In 2015 and 2016 he was shortlisted for the Small Axe Poetry Prize.

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