The Mistake

This poem was inspired by Maya Angelou’s “We Wear the Mask,” and Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “Mask.”


Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Unsplash

We define grief as tears, not smiles
heartbreaking groans, and complaints
an emotion-gripped body that bends and aches
a display of physical pain is how we mistake
what it means to grieve.

We lookout for people who are visibly sad

a distraught tone of voice, a mind gone mad

a person who neglects to eat, but drinks

or maybe have a hard time falling asleep.

The physical signs of a distressed soul are what we see for ourself

and to this, we say, “careful now, of your mental health.”

 

But what of the people who are not so physically troubled?

 

They wake up each morning

their heads held high.

They could wallow in self-pity but prefer to fly.

They spread their cheeks, so we see their teeth,

and somehow, deep underneath the grief, they smile.

Their shoulders do not droop or bow or lean,

and from their eyes, no tears be seen.

We run to them for advice, and in their ears, we spill our guts

“They are pillars of strength, no matter what,”

we say

and this is the mistake.

 

Right there in those smiling faces, see the invisible rock.

The chains of depression’s coffles

it’s whips and lash and knock

its uninvited entry when our smiling support goes home

and lay their pillars on their pillows 

before crying themselves to sleep.

 

In a world as destructive as this one, 

they need not make it known 

that even the happiest person 

still cries and loathes and moans.

Even the most joyous of us, with praise smeared on our lips

have some load to carry, 

we wish to be helped with.

But if physical anguish is the only measurement

by which we weigh grief

then these people don’t have a chance

of attaining such release.

 

And yet, where would we be without these rays of light

who helps us, if for a moment, to believe all is right?

Where would we be without people with such faith?

Those who pull us from the grave, 

even as they stand on the edge of death and wait?

Too solid to bend and too proud to break.

They go on permitting us to believe 

pain is but a physical thing.

 

This is the mistake.

Betrayal

What happened when you read the title of this post? Did you hearken on a definition, or did your mind replay the events of the past?

They say betrayal is something people do to the ones they love. How profoundly interesting a thought. The TV show The Strain, for instance, shows how the infected return to murder their loved ones first. And in the history of the relationships we’ve had throughout our lives, chances are its the closest love that got us. People who admire our work are those who have a history of hating us for the very work they wish belonged to them. Not all admirers but those who secretly hate when we improve. Like the song says, “Smiling in yo face, all the time wanna take yo place, them back stabbers.” They say some do it with a bitter look. Some a flattering word, and others a sweet kiss. And in the words of Dennis Haysbert (the All State Guy) in a clip from the movie Love and Basketball,  the most bold is right at your front door.

Deception.

It comes in many different shapes, sizes, and motives, and often enters under the banner of love. A smile, a wave, or a joke or two that happens as the knives enter your lower torso. Since hate transforms itself into an angel of light, the love we have for these people makes for an invisible wound; a wound that is not instant thanks to our blindness but that appears later. Dripping from holes unnoticed by the sister you called friend, or the brother you thought loyal. The pain has no calendar to which it wishes to disappear into, and is not interested in evaporating so that you have the privilege of time, in which you decide when to trust again. Not likely. Know that the pain will  sit there long enough for you to put up the proper walls that only true love can tear down. As for trust, it is a mirror that only time can restore. Yes, betrayal, it is a broken bone of trust capitalizing on the scars already on our backs.

So what’s the good news? What’s encouraging about this post? Well, nothing. Nothing except that while Betrayal shows up often, it really only has one job.

To make you stronger.