Take bread away from me, if you wish,
take air away, but
do not take from me your laughter.

—Pablo Neruda, “Your Laughter”

My mother always covers her mouth when she laughs. Once I showed her
what I thought was a great photo, and she said, “Oh, my teeth.”

Scientists document our rhythmic breaths and vocalizations.
It isn’t always a joke: ask Tanganyika villagers about the epidemic of ’62.

My father’s gleeful, booming laugh—I haven’t heard that sound in years.
My pre-teen daughter, her self-conscious age—I wonder if she remembers.

Did you know researchers have tickled rats? Did you know rats titter,
at frequencies too high for humans to hear? Thank goodness for science.

My husband’s laughter, so rare: “I made Daddy laugh! That never happens!”
A baby’s easy, instinctive smile, when seeing another human face.

An exuberance of preschoolers, a giggle of girls; a hoot of old ladies, a guffaw
of old men. Shall we define ourselves by the ways in which we laugh?

Art by Letitia Fraser showing two women laughing (oil on quilt)

Carrying On by Letitia Fraser (oil on quilt)

About Sneha Madhavan-Reese

Sneha Madhavan-Reese is the author of the poetry collection Observing the Moon. Her writing has appeared in publications around the world, including The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2016. She lives with her family in Ottawa.

About Letitia Fraser

Born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Letitia Fraser is a proud descendant of North Preston and comes from a long line of artists. Her artistic interest began early in life as she participated in art instruction at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design child and youth program. Her interest matured during her high school years, driving her desire to continue studies at NSCAD. Her art work has been featured in exhibits at the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia, the Freedom Festival Art Exhibit coordinated by the African Nova Scotian Music Association and several exhibits coordinated by the Black Artists Network of Nova Scotia. In 2012, she had the opportunity to illustrate images for The Journey Continues: An Atlantic Canadian Black Experience, written by Craig M. Smith.

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