Amnesia #3: Photographs & Videos

Quincy Troupe

looking at snapshots in a photo book eye remember seeing people
like these before, their ordinary, plain blank faces,
flat in black & white photographs, gazing out vacantly
through blue eyes, or gray, or black as small bores, or pebbles,
dumb as local stones found littering the ground where they stand now
underneath these trees, where they are gathered
as if for a picnic in these fading photographs
in this books, or others like this one, stored away in vaults,
in yellowing pages of tattered old newspapers
& in the pictures the people don't seem to notice the body—though
some seem to have a hint or flicker of a smile playing
around the corners of their lips thin as wires, while others point
their fingers absentmindedly upward toward the "strange fruit" hanging
grotesquely above their heads from a tree branch, or the carcass,
charred beyond recognition of anything human,
resting on smoking embers on the scorched bier in front of them—
but how could they not notice the acrid smell
of burnt flesh, the screaming, toxic stench, the excrement released
at the moment when the rope snapped the neck at the spinal cord
& death kicked in, in a spasm of switching,
herky-jerky trembling of the body, the eyes popping out,
the tongue protruding, lolling from the now slack mouth—
didn't this now passive crowd—they were raucous before
the shadow-catcher's shutter caught them
demurely posing—smell this awful stench of death?
that was then, this is now & we see these look-alike faces once again,
in october 2008, though rage has replaced the stillness in those
aged daguerreotypes, perhaps we are looking at descendents of people
snapped in those old photographs—so silent then when caught
on camera—screaming bloody murder now
at republican presidential rallies for john mccain & sarah palin,
during boiling tea party rallies in august 2009, who all hate another black man,
this time the forty-fourth president of these yet to be united states,
this time modern videos & microphones caught their remarkable rage,
their fist-thrusting, hate-filled images & voices for history,
which informs us, lets us know very little has changed

Last updated October 19, 2022