Friday 4 March 2022

Anastasia Taylor-Lind, "One Language"

Anastasia Taylor-Lind is an English/Swedish photojournalist covering issues relating to women, war and violence. She is a National Geographic Magazine photographer, a TED fellow and a 2016 Harvard Nieman fellow. She writes poems about contemporary conflicts and the experiences she cannot photograph.

About One Language                                                                                                                 

From the perspective of a female photojournalist, these concise but complex and insightful poems draw on first-hand experience of war to explore how damage is generated and perpetuated. The book’s title expresses the contradiction between the lingua franca of photography and the equally universal language of violence. One Language comes to an understanding of personal history and global conflict in poetry that is as immediate and evocative as the most urgent of dispatches.

You can see more details about One Language on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read a sample poem from the collection.

From One Language, by Anastasia Taylor-Lind


It’s 9/11 the first time you stay. 
In the morning you bring Taliban poems back to bed.
I drink cardamom coffee and you read their tender lines
‘May you not be hungry in the desert, my dear.’
Their loving as ordinary as mine.

I see wilding men shouldering RPGs 
by the swimming pool of a warlord’s compound 
and think they’re beautiful, watch a dentist 
fall to Earth from an aeroplane rising over Kabul. 

Human payload slipping from the undercarriage,
falling through swipes, scrolls and clicks.
Rewind the tapes, see the little man flying upwards, 
returning to his life, 
rewind the tapes.

Like Bruegel’s Icarus, he touches down with a splash
in a rooftop water tank 4km away, 
his suffering unnoticed except for a casual 
cell phone recording. Twenty years ago, 
the twin towers man fell too, 

twisting and turning, tie fluttering, 
past flames and smoke, for a moment head first 
over Manhattan. Rewind the tapes, 
see the little men flying upwards,
returning to their lives, rewind the tapes.

You and I lie under a marigold embroidered 
bedspread bought in Afghanistan. 
My old friend Tom took me on that shopping trip
in an armoured vehicle with his bodyguard

and I remembered the summer before the end of uni, 
how we sat up late, drinking Jameson, 
listening to Johnny Cash 
and imagining our own deaths, 

together, somewhere in a dusty alley,
all golden light, slow motion and elevated camera angles.
We took it in turns who was doing the dying 
and who was doing the cradling.

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