War Photographer by Carol Ann Duffy

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