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.
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