Picture Perfect for the Big Tent

This week’s prompt at Big Tent Poetry asked us to be inspired by a portrait – either one in our own collection or one we found online – from the photographer’s point of view.

I chose to write about Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” .

The Photographer Remembers Dirt

after “Migrant Mother” by Dorothea Lange

They eat it in their meager meals, scavenged and boiled. It is

a second skin, plastered to them like poultice, insistent,

burrowing into the creases of their necks. When I swallow,

it tastes of regret. The little ones bury their smudged faces

in the folds of her dress, shun my lens out of fear or doubt.

They are not accustomed to the light. But there are dreams

in their mother’s eyes: someday they will know comfort – new

shoes, hot baths, cupboards full of store-bought food. They will

sweep their fine houses every day, brush away each filthy speck

of memory. They will forget this moment -and  they will shine.


Comments welcome!


14 thoughts on “Picture Perfect for the Big Tent

  1. Donna, A sad poem with a glimmer of hope at the end.
    The photo is heartbreaking.
    Am I correct to think this was in fact inspiration for “the grapes of wrath”?

  2. Her photographs are incredible. And this one is a favorite of mine.

    Your poem does it justice. I like the pervasiveness of dirt as a metaphor (and reality) for poverty.

  3. I posted a comment, and I not sure if its gone for moderation or I did something to make it disappear.

    Simple and poignant. Your insight seems so on the spot and expressed without drama and that makes it so beautiful to read.

    • Sorry, Padmavani! For some reason, your comment was sent to the spam folder – I do moderate my comments since I teach 12-14 year-olds and need to make sure that the website is free of teenaged nonsense. Thanks for reading!

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