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Carolyn OliverSeptember 02, 2022

after paintings by Norman Rockwell
and a painting by Gustave Doré
and a photograph by Lynsey Addario

Possibly you’ve encountered the images too,
held fast some details: a rosary unconfiscated,

glass celery dish on the long pristine table,
a farmer’s smudged temple or his flight-crew jacket,

folded newspaper’s half-headline: BOMBINGS
HORROR with a doll splayed on the floor below

children tucked to their chins. Loving,
these paintings, meant for long looking,

freedoms of and for cloistered just steps away
from other fantasies—dragons and golden hours,

vast eagle ravenous for battlefield dead, bruised
angel defiant, though stranded in a colorless century.

Today it does not take so long to make a picture speak.
These four could be sleeping on the street:

a woman, two children, and a man alone
bleeding, soldiers trying to save him,

him alone left to save after the shell blast.
You and I know their effort will fail, we know

because we lived long enough to know, free to gaze
at the turquoise backpack, at the man who strides away.

And the power that buys our freedom?
The power to inflict death in our name.

Unwilling, maybe, we know this. As we both know
the photographer has spared us the little girl’s face.

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