In March 1993, photographer Kevin Carter made a trip to southern Sudan, where he took the now iconic photo of a vulture preying upon an emaciated Sudanese toddler near the village of Ayod. Carter said he waited twenty minutes, hoping that the vulture would spread its wings. It didn’t. Carter snapped the haunting photograph and chased the vulture away.

Carter eventually won the Pulitzer Prize for this photo, but he couldn’t enjoy it. “I’m really, really sorry I didn’t pick the child up,” he confided to a friend.

Consumed with the violence he’d witnessed and haunted by the questions as to the little girl’s fate, he committed suicide three months later.

One photograph can literally change the way you see the world. One photograph can bring you to tears, cause you to gasp with the sheer meaning of what the photograph represents. To enter this contest, submit a free verse (non-rhyming) poem under 1000 words reflecting the events in Kevin Carter’s photograph. Stay true to your self when writing your poem, and stay true to the event in the photograph.

My poem below was disqualified for rhyming and not free-verse.  Below it is the actual free-verse entry I wrote.  (There are two poems with this picture.)

FALLEN AND CURLED by Kristine Goodfellow

An icon of a fading and lonely child,

Fallen and curled,

Touches the heart of the well-fed world

Don’t cringe but let the image beguile.

We need to know whom to revile.

The skeletal hand of drought or war?

The image remains, the child no more.

Upon his soft cheek, death did caress–

An Innocent of perfect tenderness.

The end of a life for that little one–

We shake our heads, but what have we done?

Ten thousand more after this one’s demise—

Look away to avoid the fate in their eyes.

Don’t listen to the weak cries through the dust and debris;

Look away, change the channel and pretend not to see.

An icon of a fading and lonely child,

Fallen and curled.

Once you’re forced to observe–

You see, but what have you heard?

Therein dies a voice and your Maker’s decree.

“This is no icon or statement of strife.

What you see is not art, but the loss of a life.”

FALLEN AND CURLED byKristine Goodfellow (Non-rhyming version)

An icon of a fading, lonely child,

Fallen and curled,

For a brief moment pierced the western heart

A world away

With a brazen jolt of sickening truth.

Do not shudder or recoil, but let the image ask

To whom does the guilt of a voyeur belong?

Blame the skeletal hand of drought or hard fist of war.

Does it really matter to the subject here?

The useless debate continues among those who still breathe.

The child perished without a pause from our work.

Upon her dry cheek death gave a first kiss.

And it left a dismal stain of human failure

Forced upon a powerless Innocent–

Leaving sharp angles and points, no softness to cradle.

A broad veil fell as silent as a whisper–

Wrapping the child in its shroud without care.

For her, the last moment might have been loudly felt.

Yet, the moment for us so quietly came.

Our text we continued and schedules we kept.

Three were present and observed the final breath.

The one with the lens waits for the show to commence.

Two wait in hunger, innate need to survive.

The strongest had patience and they sat idly by.

Spectators at a wretched game with no rules.

Destiny without future for that little one.

Yet, what have we learned from our mistakes?

Nothing we can do to save her or the others?

Now seeing the image, we shake our heads.

So we write our poems with our headphones in place.

Ten thousand more after this little one’s demise.

Look away to avoid the ugly truth.

Don’t hear the weak cries through human debris and dust.

Pretend not to see and change the channel–

Remove the grief from our screens by clicking a key.

No more reminders of a fading and lonely child,

Fallen and curled.

Forced to glimpse a crude view,

You see the girl, but what did you hear?

A sigh of surrender.

A click of the shutter.

A rustle of feathers?

A tiny voice died on blistering desert sand.

Maybe guilt will make you listen now–

Should you decide to become attentive right here.

Heed your Maker’s impassioned decree.

“This is no icon or statement of discord.

What you see is not art, but the loss of a child.”

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