I try to hold my pain

Like Madea holds onto family history

Tucked away like photo albums

Hid beneath old books containing forgotten knowledge

Wrapped in paper in efforts of preserving

I hold this hurt well

But its stench lingers on my face

Like moth balls under ‘Dea’s bed

Creeping up to beat your nose

Like Pawpaw did Lil Jr

Man, he beat….his….tail

But not one tear did he shed

He held them behind frozen eyes

Fixed upon his stoned face

It was like he’d drifted off somewhere and left his still shell for us to look at

Wow, now I can see the family resemblance

And now I understand why those albums are so carefully put away

Healing has never been an option for us

Instead we’ve had to learn that if it didn’t kill you…get over it

Shut your mouth and keep kicking

So don’t look at those still shots from the past

No, don’t turn those pages

Remind me not of the day before nor the day after tragedy hit

Ain’t no room in my heart for more pain

Ain’t no more pages in the books to hide more secrets

Ain’t enough paper left to wrap and preserve these unfallen tears

Ain’t no shoulder in this family to cry on

Ain’t no ear to hear your rescue pleas

Ain’t no need to worry, you didn’t die, right?

Ain’t no need to stress, you can get over it, right?

Why you wanna cry anyway?

Didn’t Madea say shut your mouth?

You better not cry before she give you something to cry for

Boy, you better keep kicking

These instructions were passed down alongside Madea’s dressing recipe

For the kitchen is the only place you’re allowed to cry

‘Blame it on the onions’, she whispers

So onions make their way into every family recipe

They’re the first thing to be prepped

And the last thing to be added into the dish

Like memories they’re to be set aside

Always in sight

Always in reach

But never to be spoken of

Only to be savored over casual conversations at the dinner table with teary-eyed relatives

We all try to hold our pain and hurt

But I smile

Because tomorrow will be my turn to cook dinner