Kent State University—the Photograph

By | 1 November 2019

I am still half asleep when I stumble
towards the fridge, take two oranges
out of the crisper and find the sharp knife.
I slice them in half, then press the skin down
on the green glass dome, watching the juice flow
into the moat below the ridged hill, twisting
and twisting until I shift as much pulp as possible.
I tip the juice into a glass and put a slice of bread
into the toaster. The newspaper lies on the bench.
I notice a number of people standing upside down,
their heads where the ground should be. I grin
as I turn the paper around. Now, I see a man
lying on the ground, a man with long, messy hair
like mine. He is lying on his stomach, his head
turned to the side, an ear held upright, as if listening.
A stream of blood appears to begin beneath his head
and flow to the edge of the photograph. The blood
is furrowed, as if an afternoon wind is blowing
across the surface of a river. There’s a tiny white
island on the concrete, in the shape of a chilli,
which his blood has not swamped. A woman
reaches out to touch his arm below the press studs
of a rolled-up shirt, as if she’s searching for a pulse.
She has a leather bag slung over her shoulder
and the jacket tied around her waist is adorned
with these dinky cowgirl fringes. The blood
running over the concrete is darker than her hair
and darker than the shadows of the people
standing around the young man. I don’t know
what to say, what to think. My toast is cooling
in the toaster. I stare at my orange juice.
I stare at the ripple of blood that must now be
flowing beyond the border that marks the end
of the photograph and, in a strange way, its beginning.

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