{poetry friday: a primate’s smile is an act of aggression}


Not like that. Not so big, you look like you’re at your grandbaby’s birthday party.

Not like that, like there’s some secret you’ve been told.

No, not like that, not like you’re guilty by association.

No, not like that – not like you’re not grateful to be here.

No, not like you’re resentful to be sitting on the floor, being fed scraps from the table.

No, not like that – don’t bare your teeth.

Like this, not like that. Not like that! NO! Never like that.

Smile. Because we told you to.

Smile. Because you should be smiling. Because the world has changed since the Harlem Renaissance. Because you shouldn’t be any less relieved, any less happy than we’ve told you to be.



We Wear the Mask

by Paul Dunbar

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
        And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
         We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
         We wear the mask!

Photo “Vergessen” courtesy of Rubina V., Flickr Creative Commons, September 2011.

Poetry Friday today is hosted by Karen Edmisten, a woman with a lovely smile and a plethora of poetry at her disposal. I won’t wish you happy Friday; you don’t have to smile.

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