Child’s Pose


In March 1993, photographer Kevin Carter made a trip to southern Sudan, where he took the now iconic photo of a vulture preying upon an emaciated Sudanese toddler near the village of Ayod. He snapped the haunting photograph and chased the vulture away.
Carter eventually won the Pulitzer Prize for this photo, but he couldn’t enjoy it. “I’m really, really sorry I didn’t pick the child up,” he confided to a friend.
Consumed with the violence he’d witnessed and haunted by the questions as to the little girl’s fate, he committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning three months later.

This is my poem based on the photograph in tribute to Kevin Carter. It was awarded honorable mention in the Scribophile “Humanity in Poetry” contest.

Child’s Pose

I’ve wiped the lens
with the edge of my shirt
over and over again

each time hoping
to find her
digging grubs from the coolness of mud.

Or sifting millet
with agile fingers
looping through the grains.

Haunched
on strengthened knees,
feet anchored to the ground,
circled hands cupping drops
from the catalyst of rain.

The sharpness has faded,
the background obscured,

but her pose
remains unchanged.

Laid down on the trek,
did she long for the womb,
the fluid float of a weightless embrace
to carry her once again?

Or maybe she sought
to sink beneath
the stratum of clay
to entwine with roots
that would keep her
until Spring.

Earth, too parched to absorb another child
rejected her hunger,
and offered her up

crouched limbs,
caged spine,
bones bracing and
biding

as the talons and lens approached.

The scavenger,
patient and poised,
stilled to her flesh and the
vapored stench
of urine, bile and bowel.

I willed it to advance,
spread wings
just once.

And I waited.

Not a squawk, not a twitch
not a breath, not a click.
A war of observation,
there was no retreat.

The few steps I could have taken
were a vastness bridged by fear.

She held her pose,
too weak to accuse.

I never saw her eyes.

 

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