Monday, 23 March 2015

The Balaclava Cantinière

To the scurvied ranks with no appetite,
her meals are seldom edible. At night,
they throw the mutton into the fire
to warm up coffee; will only devour
mouthfuls of mushed-up biscuit or barley:
disease has loosened their teeth. New supplies
are invariably rotten, though the Zouaves
would know what to do with them. The men carve
through snow one day, rain-sodden sludge the next.
The dead out-number the living by six
to one. Yet still she raises her shoulders
and a smile for Fenton's camera.
Her uniform is strangely blemish-free.
The paper on which her image will be
preserved is coated in salt—just like her
meat that no-one in the ranks can endure.

after Roger Fenton, photograph, salt paper print,
from a calotype negative, 1855

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