Ancestral teeth / Urban tongue

By Zechariah Soakai

I sit in the seat of the dingy

Mighty Mouth dental van,

A gift from the Public Health system


they know


“All us decile one kids

have no time,

no money

and no mind to look after our teeth”



I wait

for latex gloves to

manoeuvre themselves in my mouth.

Getting time to wag

from class

and finally think,

of all that I am:


That factory floor legacy,

That ancestral sweat,

I am a product of colonisation.

The unrelenting bloodlust,

That made love to migration,

and had three-ways with Diaspora.


And here I am,

all severed tongue and a mouth

man-made of spoilt milk

and burnt honey.


I have a mouth

full of ocean salt

to inherit;



the saltwater into my gums.


I proclaim,

Jesus is my light,

And God is my father,


my tongue still knows all the vowels for

trauma that brought them here.


 And it’s complicated.

That burnt flesh

That coming to the “light”

That birth of the exotic children

And their afakasi offspring

It was a violent stripping

of all that was sacred

and you know this,


we all do.


We benefit from it every day

Morphing our symbolism into primitivism

You successfully entangled islands

into confusion,

then division,

then war;


Our indigenous teeth

ripped out with all their wisdom

We no longer know how to talk with them on


And for better or worse:


We adorn ourselves with all their mana

Teeth-less with an urban tongue.


I lie back,

pop the black sunglasses on my eyes

look for the light

through my darkness

and wait

for the dentist to

pop the numb

sticker on me.


Wait for the dentist to

diagnose, what gum infection

I have inherited from colonisation today,


My present self always

trying to make sense

of the messy



in my mouth.

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