Paul Hansford

Photographs I Never Took - Poem by Paul Hansford

I didn't take a photograph of the statue of Robert Burns.
His sightless eyes were looking out over Dunedin,
the most Scottish town in the southern hemisphere,
and there was a seagull, not a pigeon, standing on his head.
I would have called it 'Robbie Burns and Friend.'

And I didn't take a picture of the bus shelter
painted all over with jungle foliage and a tiger
peeping out over the simulated signature of Henri Rousseau.
The title would have been 'This Bus Shelter is a Forgery.'

Neither did I photograph another painted wall,
one round a cemetery full of ornate and sombre tombs,
with a large and skilfully executed advertisement -
Renta Sanitarios Mobiles (Hire Mobile Toilets) .
It would have been called 'Is there no Respect for the Dead? '

I didn't take the photo of a Fijian policeman.
A pity, for he had such a practical uniform,
very smart and cool,
in a tasteful shade of policeman-blue,
based on the traditional sulu
with a striking zigzag hem.
The title would have been 'A Policeman in a Skirt? ! '

I couldn't take a photograph of sunset over Popocatépetl
- although the sun was setting in a red and golden haze,
and the most romantically named mountain is just
what you imagine a perfect volcano should be,
even to the wisp of steam at the peak
– because the sun was actually setting over Ixtaccíhuatl
and 'Sunset over Ixtaccíhuatl' doesn't have quite the right ring
The shape of the mountain is not very picturesque either.
Yes, I would have called that one 'Sunset over Popocatépetl'
– if I could have taken it.

My camera wouldn't focus on the crescent moon
hanging over the Egyptian skyline,
horns pointing up, so close to the Equator,
and the evening star (Venus or some more ancient goddess)
just above and almost between the points.
If that one had worked it would have been called 'Islamic Moon.'

I couldn't possibly have taken a photograph
that would do any justice to the young piano student
in a Hungarian castle
hammering out Liszt as if the hounds of hell were after her,
but if I could, I would have had to call it 'Apassionata.'

And I didn't even have time to get my camera out
to take a picture of the wild humming bird
darting green and unconcerned
among dilapidated tenements in the heart of Mexico City.
But that living jewel shines bright in my memory,
even without a photo.
I don't know what I would have called that one,
and I'm sure it doesn't matter.

Comments about Photographs I Never Took by Paul Hansford

  • (8/16/2009 11:05:00 PM)

    Haha- Robbie Burns and Friend! The moral of the story seems to be, sometimes you
    shouldn't have your camera at the ready; and any really great shots you miss on film
    will always exist on those neurons. (well at least, we can hope for that) .
    Enjoyed the views all around the world in here.
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  • (1/12/2009 5:56:00 AM)

    This is such a meaningful poem! Your mind is your own camera. I'm sorry to say but i like taking pictures, because even though it may be embeded in my mind, somtimes the feeling of the moment is dorment in my mind. When i look at a photograph the feelings return. Besides what i said, I loved your peom! !

    Kat ^_^
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  • Emily Oldham (9/22/2008 2:22:00 PM)

    great poem, thanks... i never take photos anyway, i try and remember the sight, and now i'll definitely never take- or regret that i didn't take - an unnecessary picture! words are more important

    *** words will change the world ***
    (Report) Reply

  • Susan Jarvis (7/7/2008 11:27:00 AM)

    'But that living jewel shines in my memory' is the line that I will recite for all of the photographs I didn't take. Life's missing photograph albums are nolonger a regret - pictures in words hold far more significance - a magnificent poem. S :) (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Sunday, July 6, 2008

Poem Edited: Wednesday, April 29, 2009

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