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If You Took Away My Smile   

If you took away my smile you would see,

The pain I’ve been carrying inside of me.

I can’t erase the vision of my mother’s blood

splattered by my father everywhere,

When I hear stories of domestic abuse

I can’t act like I don’t care.

I can’t pretend one Halloween my Aunt Rose, sister of my mother,

Hole blown through her back

didn’t die from a shotgun blast meant for another.

I can’t pretend my father in a drunken rampage with my brother reached for a gun,

Only to be shot dead in self-defense by his first-born son.

I can’t pretend my cousin Marvin who enjoyed my poetry

that drugs didn’t caused his life to ever be the same,

Life lost by asphyxiation unknowingly by his dad while trying to be restrained.

I can’t pretend my beloved first cousin Roosevelt

didn’t died from a gunshot to the back as he walked to the door,

Trying to depart from a relationship, he valued no more.

I can’t pretend my grandfather

a vibrant, young man of age 88,

Wasn’t robbed, hands duct-taped behind his back

throat slit by a lover and her mate.

I can’t pretend my beautiful cousin Lisa, son Jalen, daughter Desiree

weren’t shot & stabbed to death by one who took vows to uphold the law to the end,

Murdered four that fateful, bloody night, including her friend.

I can’t pretend my kind & gentle cousin Peter

wasn’t stabbed by his girlfriend then left bleeding to die,

Joined his sister Lisa, nephew Jalen, niece Desiree in the sky.

At night I sleep with the covers over my head,

In fear of nightmares, in fear of the dead.

When you see me in the day, you’ll only see my smile,

Pain has caused me to master its perfection, since I was a child.

If you took away my smile, you would not like what you’ll see,

I’m so glad God placed my burdens inside of me.

Carolyn Estes

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