I Have No Pictures of You

By Maheen Hyder


For Tim Hetherington—friend, colleague and photojournalist killed in 2011 while covering the civil war in Libya.


During a sleepless night in Saloum refugee camp,

we forged birth certificates to greet prayer. I scolded you

for tipping the kettle as you reached for soaked pistachios.

I hated how grateful you were for leftovers. As men marched

towards the checkpoint, humming their hunger for pulse,

I did what you said, I lit the match. You were right,

temporary jade skies in Alexandria protect no one.


As the frontline swelled, winged shrapnel lodged itself

on the horizon as ornament, an axis for all that haunts

from a distance. An afternoon emptied smoke from its throat

as I stood at the border and watched a tribe of men and women

I worshipped, a tribe that once took risks, surrender

to running water in Beirut. Six eulogies later, I stayed.

Witnessing an empty casket held hostage in exchange for food

finally forced me out. Hunger is a coy, desperate machine.


At the Newseum in D.C, I gasped and pointed to your name

carved in seams of sprawling crystal. I passed a whole summer

through me, just staring. I want to believe your homecoming

was the burst of every silence tapped open through your camera

collared around your lanky torso. An abandoned reel of all you saw

and never documented shimmering with a reckless reaching.

The questions we fought over circling your hush: What are you

chasing? Is it worth it? Are you sure? Your answers matter now.


Twelve minutes and twenty eight seconds in, I pause the film

Sebastian made about your life, to inspect the blurry polaroids

of your angled eyes, the lighthouse you never showed me.

I keep watching. The same shots are fired. An ambulance arrives

fogged with saline, a makeshift wooden stretcher brims,

Brown bodies starfish their limbs in swelter, a siren

frantic to catch every breath. Gauze pleats mortared skin

till the red disappears. Those first few minutes were smeared

with an awning of speculation. You were unlucky.




Maheen Hyder is a Pakistani poet and clinical social worker currently living in Toronto.