I wrote this poem inspired by this photograph. On 24 April, an seven-story building collapsed in Savar, near the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, killing more than 1,100 people. Onlookers gather around the Rana Plaza, the day after its collapse. This poem is written from the perspective of the Bangladeshi photographer.
The shutter clicks and time stands still.
The collapse of Rana Plaza,
A seven-story garment factory,
Reduced to rubble.
The workers were sent home early yesterday,
They returned hours ago.
Destruction held their fleeting lives in its stony grasp,
Their families stand by,
Watching waiting for a beam of light,
All my viewers will see is black and white.
Life and death merge into one,
The hopeful, the hopeless they come,
What once was such sweet creation,
Given way to such potent destruction.
Like little black stitches on expansive grey cloth,
The masses seized by a pain unrelenting,
Calamity and chaos no photo can portray,
As the last remains of hope are sucked away.
Oh Lord it’s more than I can bear,
Seeing these people to whom I belong,
And I’m up here whilst they’re down there,
The horror, the pain, the strangled cries!
They weep in sorrow amid this disaster,
This battlefield of dust and plaster.
But I stand here,
With my camera gear,
Cold hearted, blinking back the tears.
My heart contorts with the grief I feel,
For I am present, yet removed,
Emotions such as these I must conceal,
So I may briefly press the shutter,
Capture this moment, this second, forever,
And reduce the pain to a solemn slumber.
The rubble, ruin everywhere
Fades their presence into distance,
A leaden weight hangs heavy in the air,
Cries of grief like the muted raindrops drumming on my drowning heart.
So I withdraw into myself,
Anonymous, worthless, idle.
Oh, I know I am falling,
Aimlessly helplessly failing,
For the sharps and flats of this symphony,
This melancholy minor key,
Cannot be captured in a single picture.
The only image that shall remain forever,
Is the fragility of our infrastructure,
Oh merciless, cold-hearted nature!
Oh light of day don’t evade me now,
Turn this scene into a piece of art,
And before I sink into despair,
Cloak our land once more
In your sweet summer air,
I don’t know these people anymore,
The love we shared is no longer fresh,
For I sell their pain for financial gain,
So the West may see you Bangladesh.
But the West does not care for the lives destroyed,
They care only for a striking photo,
A contrast between the ground and the sky;
An image in focus;
A piece of art to gaze upon.
What about the lives of the people? I cry,
No they do not care in the least,
So I simply accept their infantile ignorance,
Through my firmly gritted teeth.