On Not Smiling

It is not that their teeth have gone bad,
or they hold down two jobs
that makes their gaze wander to the side in photos

as though bitten with a sudden tiredness,
nor an image of parents slogging back
from Germany after the war.

Even their grandmothers, as teenagers,
stood tight-lipped in those timed exposures.

Only sometimes, in private, a flicker
no camera will ever catch,
leaving no record they were ever lighthearted —

leaving the gods, on whatever Olympus remains,
without happiness as an excuse
when they decide to start punishing us again.

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