Richard Rowley, for the Pulitzer Center
until i picked up a camera, i didn't know how to see.
pupils dilate in this strange early dusk.
a damp taste to the air behind the sand storm.
in the shallows of my focus the world deepens into texture.
color rushes in like bruises blossoming in pale skin.
reds and greens.
blue camouflage - the color of twilight among the date-palms.
he waves us off the road.
gun metal clicks against safety-glass.
tattered papers pushed through the window.
the feel of sand in my pores and the taste in the back of my throat - like stale cocaine.
mirrored sunglasses and a five day stubble on the edge of chikook.
next to the americans' 20 inch necks and kevlar chests,
the army of the mahdi are blades of grass in their thin cotton shirts.
nines pressed against skin.
hussein's eyes, still open, stare down from the wall.
alone with his white horse on the field of karbala.
slowly fading, red into green, through a dozen arrow wounds.
the form reads:
Village of Origin:_______
Number of Family Members Killed:______
'i do not remember how my husband was killed'
a blue scarf pulled lower over hennaed hair
'it was two years ago - i do not remember.'
the cold elegance of a kalashnikov. . .
they may own the sea and the sky above us,
they may build walls between themselves and the dust of these streets,
but this is how people die - looking their killer in the face.
and knowing their family's name.
fingers of blood pound against her throat, thirsty for the air.
every thud carries the heat of the midday sun deeper inside.
they build roadblocks from palm trunks and emaciated cats scatter at our step.
a white KIA, windows jammed open, doors full of SEMTEX.
'please don't stand there. . . that is amar's blood.'
was there really a time, when we shot in color reversal
and we could say -
'some day, this war will be over.'