Friday, May 31, 2013

A Poetic Expression of Life and Death

Trey Smith

A photograph haunts my waking hours. In it a man is curled embracing a woman. His eyes are closed, his head against her chest. Her back is arched, right arm resting on his left; elbow finding a niche in the crook of his arm. From the pose alone, it is as though he had reached for her in his sleep; as though her wrist, bent down against his brow, might bend again, directing her hand to stroke his hair, his face, his bowing back; as though she and he together had paused to feel the beating of their hearts.

The Kama Sutra must have a name for their embrace, for it is beautiful and common. But catastrophe and not love is the subject of this scene, for these two are dead.

We don’t know how they lived or what they were called, whether they were lovers or strangers taking desperate hold of each other as the ceiling crashed and the walls came down and a bolt of aqua cloth with polka dots loosened like a winding sheet against their tomb of concrete and bent metal.
~ from The Hidden Price of the Fabulous Bargain by JoAnn Wypijewski ~
While Zhuangzi and Laozi remind us that words can be weak placeholders for experience, in the hands of a poetic wordsmith, they aren't always so shabby either. Words can restore beauty to ugliness and tenderness to tough circumstances.

On the other hand, poetic words can hide the depravity of one human against another. Words can be used to make us reflective without actually doing anything to try to change a given situation.

In the case of Wypijewski's poetic description of a tragic event -- the garment factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh -- I don't think this is the case at all. In this example, I think the author's intent is to move us to demand justice for strangers that we shall never meet. It is an invitation to examine how our lives as western consumers impacts others -- sometimes fatally -- who in live in the far flung corners of this world.

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