Halfway through the day I still can’t
Get one photograph out of mind,
And open the book again to find it,
Walker Evans’ Havana 1933,
More than a hundred images
Of the city and the people in a terrible time.

I turn past the men sleeping on park benches
Or staring, lost, straight ahead,
A ragged cigar or cigarette stuck
Between their tight lips,
Straw hats casting shadows on stained walls.
The oldest men, shovels cocked over their shoulders,
Are soaked in grime; one holds a glove.

A few women, sitting in cafes,
Hands folded or clasped behind them,
Try hard not to smile.  One or two look up
From work at a table and sink, voluptuous
In light dresses, tight
Around their thighs,
Shoes flat and dirty,
Peeling an onion or fruit.
Down a long street, empty
Except for a military truck,
Two women huddle or hug in a doorway,
I can’t tell.

Standing opposite the Parque Central,
The Galician Center in the background,
One woman and her children appear.
A boy, the oldest, rests his head on his right arm
And sleeps, legs pulled up.
Another, no longer a baby,
A girl, I think, sleeps on her mother’s lap.
The middle child sleeps on his back,
Arms thrown apart, shirt torn, his tiny penis
Curled between bare legs.

Only the woman is awake, staring
At this boy or the pavement they rest on
And beyond the frame of this photograph
At shacks, or factories, or telephone lines
Who knows.  There must be cemeteries
And churches too, beyond.

Walker Evans met Ernest Hemingway
Somewhere in Havana in 1933.
Then he leaned forward and saw dignity and Alabama.


Photo By: martin