See Child Cry
The child cries straight
into the camera. She has nothing
to lose, throwing her whole face in.
Her hurtling eyebrows astonish:
dark fronds outleaping all worry,
all anguish, almost rushing together
in prayer, their small hairs so immaculate.
In her half-mast eyes, tears and alarm
are wed, discharge long rivers that frame
her crusted nostrils,
come to rest like pearls of tapioca
dotting both sides of her chin.
Yet somehow this close-up
doesn’t care for her. The rounded cheeks
stiffen into plastic, her chin is a
varnished bun. Her mane of curls,
lapping back into shadow, thrusts her grief forward,
too bold, too oblong, to soften the heart.
You want to paw at her,
not hold her, slip quarters
into the dark slot of her mouth.
Thank goodness for the neat, white
cardigan, patted smooth by fastidious hands.
Thank god for the small, winged ear
tucked so tenderly at one side,
making you wonder who you can be
if you can’t love a frightened baby.
This poem was written in response to the specific photograph, A Child Crying, New Jersey, by Diane Arbus. Click here to view.
Janis Greve teaches literature at UMass Amherst, specializing in autobiography, disability studies, and service-learning. She has previously published in such places as The Florida Review, North American Review, The Berkshire Review, and more.
The Ekphrastic Review
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