The child in the photograph has little
more than a straw hat to halo her cold ears.
She’s maybe ten, perhaps older, snared
in a snapshot that hides years from view. It focuses in
on eyes that have seen a reflection
in the lens that swallows them—of a girl hungrier
than she’s letting on.
Could she know
that it wasn’t just crops to blame—that money and men
with a hunger not so different from her own could cause
more trouble in Alabama than drought and nail rust.
In years, she may learn not to ask these questions.
In the time when youth slips
into blossomed ash, she will hear the cry of another
hunger from men she is yet to know.
They will pull at the fringed strands of her cuffs
and at the buttons of the patterned dress
her mother sewed for her last spring.
In the instant it will take them to turn want over to flesh,
she will count the whiskers that dig into her cheek
and cringe each time the slender bone
that shapes the nape of her neck bends
against the bed-frame railing.
When she closes her eyes
and crafts darkness out of lost dignity, she will
remember a lens and a flash and a cameraman
whose eyes, too, spoke the language