Smile for a sack of rice

they know exactly why they are smiling
why I was arriving at 10.30 in the morning
why they had to put on pants

and shoes
eldest sister

her little brother
to the camera light
smile for a sack of rice

mamma sold their blanket
smile for a sack of rice

“i know there is no dignity in it”
i had said
“i will try not to take your dignity”

i had said
“by photographing your suffering”
i had said

yet i am delighted when a duck
crosses into the camera frame
i am disappointed the kids aren’t ready

duck on a dirt floor kitchen
that will get sponsors
i think

so dignified
trying to halt myself
from disappearing into every


ducks on dirt floors get sponsors
will you smile for a sack of rice?
or keep your dignity?

© 2015 Melinda Irvine

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