Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Reading the Picture (Poem)

Reading the Picture

      after Zalmai's photograph of Ali*

Read it any way you like
but don't miss the hint
of a smile where fear, too,
rises like Iraq's mountains,
even after you've left them

behind. After the mountains
there are desert, broad plains,
and rivers finally giving way
to the sea that refuses to turn
you back toward what is lost.

You spend the night in a tent
near a village called Roszke,
its gun-staffed border of razor
wire the one thing holding you
up. Well, that, and your wait

for the bus and the queue for
food and the uncle who is gone
from your side. When your uncle
is all you have left and it is cold
and raining, food in your hand

naturally goes uneaten, and you
don't pretend a boy won't cry.

Ali doesn't.

Ali's uncle doesn't.

A man with a camera never does.

2016 © Maureen E. Doallas

* When I look at this refugee boy, I see myself. ~ Zalmai, a professional photographer whose moving picture of the refugee boy Ali, who was in line for food when he became separated from his uncle, was taken in 2015. 

Zalmai's film with Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights WatchDesperate Journey, was screened this March at the Human Rights Film Festival in London. (See video below.)

1 comment:

Peggy Rosenthal said...

Thank you for this poem and for calling attention to this expressive photo. (I can read the uncle's hand as blessing Ali.)
I like your amibiguity in the final 3 lines: where the "doesn't" might mean either "doesn't pretend" or "doesn't cry."
I'm so grateful that lately you're taking the experiences of Middle Eastern refugees as your poem subjects. Politicians have pretty much abandoned them, so It's up to artists of all genres to do what they can--and you're doing your part. Thank you.