A Question for Mathew Brady

Brady maybe knew that the power of his eye

Was not that he saw something new—

Not that he discovered a secret passageway into seeing

Like, say, Georgia O’Keeffe with her swervy, intimate poppies—

But that the dark eyes of the dead, gazing upward

Were something we had never seen in situ

The swollen cheeks

(as if inhaling all of life that one last time

blew their cheeks wide open and froze there)

and rising bellies and arched backs that grew

Out of the ground in Antietam

Young men who, just hours ago,

Joked about the rotgut whiskey that would likely kill them

Or talked about their wives who could shoot better than them

Or imagined the smell of blueberry pies

Now their 3,600 bodies shot in time through the cyclops lens

Of a stranger, one of Brady’s team of photographers,

exhibited in New York City

And down through time in the National Archives

Accessed on a computer by a student writing a paper

On the Civil War

And now from beyond could Brady imagine

The violence of an AK47

Would he have shown us shattered babies in a classroom

In red sticky pools that slipped across the floor

Unrecognizable to those who loved them best

Or the flattening of a nightclub

of those remaining in the disco light

after the lucky ones fled

Would he show us this carnage

To shock us out of our skins

To shame the politicians posing with their

cherubic families, with their intact limbs and full faces,

flashing their assault rifles on

Christmas cards

Or maybe he would have turned his back on it all

His ghostly self, giving up on the very idea of shame

Who will be the one to show us

When images of death have become a fetish for

Disconnected souls on the darker channels

Swimming anonymously on the Internet

Are we too far gone

to be horrified, speechless,

outraged by

Amber’s missing head?




1 Comment A Question for Mathew Brady

  1. THERESA A HITCHENS July 27, 2023 at 11:30 pm

    Powerful, Meg. Thanks.


say anything...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.