The John H. Bennett, Jr., Prize

Ellen Hyatt

 

Winnowing

after an exhibit, City Gallery at Waterfront Park
Charleston, SC

Like the bulrush fanning basket

coiled to toss rice and separate it

from chaff, these gallery photos

we are viewing hold only part

of the golden story. The history

They tell is architectured,

altered, proper pretty

like a picture. The largest hangs

suspended for aerial viewing.

Morning, a rice field. Yellow—

all aglow—with a perfect sun,

captured bright and white.

 

The lofty view marks a landscape.

Safe. Processed. Winnowed out are

18th century mosquitoes, snakes,

alligators. Also missing, the enslaved

whose laboring made landowners

rich and Charleston a city.

And just like that, through omission,

this exhibition allows us viewers

the aha—

We visualize the other landscape,

the one beneath cash-crop comfort—

its truth in tableau.

 

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