LAUGHING TO KEEP FROM CRYING

I have been known to laugh
Often
Out loud and in public
I am known for
My laugh
Neither shy or skittish
It is unapologetic
For its startling cacophony or amazing depth
It has masked tears
And
Shrouded insecurity
As a teenager
Elders warned me
My African American Elders
Tone it down
Keep it hidden
Mute it to public ears
Judgmental ears
Because a stereotype
Had attached itself to
My laugh
In their narrow eyes
Always
Too loud
Too long
Uncouth
Dangerous
Unless
We were scratching our heads
Or
Were the butt of their jokes
Which obliged us
Permitted us
Obligated us
To laugh out loud
In public
In front of them
A public laugh
Without permission or invited inclusion
Was unacceptable
Suspect
Brought swift reprisal and demands for “Quiet subservience”
Still
The power of
My laugh
Could not be denied
Then
Will not be denied
Now
I Dare you to to measure me
With your uninformed assumptions
Your negative attention
To my unashamed unabashed exuberance
That
Defies your crude expectations
Of my place
In “your” space
Which
Makes you uncomfortable
Because
My laugh
Is a reminder
You can no longer
Control me
Or
My laugh

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