“A Photograph” (3rd Prize, Category 3)
Tell me of what lurks
In the depths of your mind
Have your lips form
Those syllables and have them
Whisper of new beginnings, new truths.
The roll of film developed there, in a dank basement reeking of mildew and stale dreams. A pair of hairclips fastened it onto a clothing line. As the hand rounded the face of the clock once, twice, thrice, the dark figures materialized.
The photograph was a crisp black-and-white. Without uttering a single word, it made covenants and preached of happily-ever-afters.
As he took a drag of his Marlboro, and as the wispy smoke retreated from his lips, he found himself back at the scene.
October 21, 1967
He squinted against the Kodak he held in between his palms. As the stomping grew louder, he crouched down, his fingers lingering over the camera’s pulse.
The soldiers’ boots cut across the damp ground. Their movements were in sync, one two one TWO. Their slick hair were concealed under grey caps, their pokerfaces facing ahead. Yet their eyes were still wet from the embraces of their mothers. As they stood at attention, their sinking hearts thought of the gore and heartache and pain that would inevitably devour them in the months to come.
They knew that crimson would stain their sleeves, and that no amount of detergent could wash them clean again. They knew that mothers would collapse from dark letters in yellow envelopes. They knew of the whispered prayers that would be left unanswered. Of the gravestones that would be without labels.
For the country, they reassured themselves. For the United States. For peace.
They didn’t notice the irony.
The drummer boys played upbeat rhythms and crowds cheered them on; yet they were corpses that walked among the living.
As Cicero once stated, "The eyes are windows to the soul."
The soldiers’ murky eyes disclosed so much.
Then the entire scene changed.
The crowd stirred when garish souls burst into the scene. Neon signs were wielded- signs that questioned and scandalized. "NO MORE WAR", the defiant souls yelled. Floral headbands, steely eyes, iron wills.
They protested against the futures that awaited the soldiers. The blood that would be shed. The families that would be broken. The soldiers regarded them warily, yet they felt some form of… Gratefulness, was it?
As this peculiar scene unfolded, a woman approached the soldiers. Her frothy brown locks coiled around her earlobes, and she wore a sweet smile upon her lips. Cautiously, she withdrew a daisy. It was pure white, dotted with a sweet fragrance. The crowd fell silent, for there she was, an ingénue, outlandish against the jet black bayonets. An oxymoron, it was, a juxtoposition of innocence and violence.
Click. The delicate moment was immortalized.
The flower embodied the potential for a better future. A future without terror and unlabeled graves. A future of purity and uncontaminated happiness.
And he had this in his hands. A photograph. A photograph that smelled of the daisy’s sweet nectar, and of hope and peace and love.
It had turned out well.
They say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one.
-Imagine by John Lennon
By Macrina Wang,
13 years, Shanghai American School - Puxi