{poetry friday: war photographer}

In his darkroom he is finally alone
with spools of suffering set out in ordered rows.
The only light is red and softly glows,
as though this were a church and he
a priest preparing to intone a Mass.
Belfast. Beirut. Phnom Penh. All flesh is grass.

He has a job to do. Solutions slop in trays
beneath his hands which did not tremble then
though seem to now. Rural England. Home again
to ordinary pain which simple weather can dispel,
to fields which don’t explode beneath the feet
of running children in a nightmare heat.

Something is happening. A stranger’s features
faintly start to twist before his eyes,
a half-formed ghost. He remembers the cries
of this man’s wife, how he sought approval
without words to do what someone must
and how the blood stained into foreign dust.

A hundred agonies in black-and-white
from which his editor will pick out five or six
for Sunday’s supplement. The reader’s eyeballs prick
with tears between bath and pre-lunch beers.
From aeroplane he stares impassively at where
he earns a living and they do not care.

~ War Photographer, by Carol Ann Duffy

Dame Carol Ann Duffy, DBE, FRSL is a Scottish poet and playwright. She is Professor of Contemporary Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University, and was appointed Britain’s Poet Laureate in May 2009.

This is a provocatively beautiful poem, and, should you be in need of poems on other topics (possibly a little lighter), Poetry Seven sister Laura Purdie Salas is hosting the whole blogosphere for Poetry Friday today.

4 Replies to “{poetry friday: war photographer}”

  1. Just read Child Soldiers, a graphic novel memoir published by Citizen Kid. Thank goodness for our distance from war, but thank goodness for those who help us to see and to care.

  2. Oh my god. Whew. I am wrung out after reading that. Duffy’s work always does that to me. I don’t know why I don’t have any of her books. Maybe I’m afraid. I’m going to have to go get one this week. Do you have a favorite to recommend?

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