Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Portrait


(photograph by S. E. Jihad Levine, Hill District, Pittsburgh, PA, Summer 1975)

As a young photography student,
I remember a distinct
incident while taking
photographs in the “ghetto”.

A black man was
laying on a playground bench,
nodding off a drunk.

When he noticed me,
I asked permission to take his picture;
surprisingly, he agreed without inhibition.

He started to clear the
debris and garbage
from the area below the bench.

As he bent down to push aside
the crumpled, cellophane cigarette packs
and discarded, empty food wrappers
I snapped a shot.

He lifted a broken whiskey bottle,
and I snapped a shot.

He finally raised his head,
exalted, ready,
expecting to be photographed.

I had no more film;
I was ashamed.
I, who was so eager,
to capture misery.

2 comments:

Safiya said...

Masha Allah, you are such a good poet!

The poem and the picture complement each other so well.

Safiyyah said...

Salaams Safiya: Thanks a lot! I have a large portfolio of pictures from art school. Thought it would be nice to add some writings to the pictures.