The storm gods sent him, W. Eugene Smith,
A photojournalist who lived like a myth.
He took his pictures with blood, sweat, and soul
Of saints and soldiers, and workers with Pittsburgh coal.
He flew to the Pacific during World War II,
And went with Marines in island battles, too.
He wanted his pictures to cause an end to wars
Between all people, on every nation’s shores.
He followed a Country Doctor as he handled every case,
Showed him with his coffee, weariness on his face.
In the South was Maude Callen, a nurse midwife,
The first black woman in an essay in LIFE.
He covered Albert Schweitzer in his African town,
A doctor and professor, he was world-renowned.
Smith spent three nights to print one shot of the man,
And resigned over that story, wanting a free hand.
The grit and grime of Pittsburgh were meat to Smith’s dark eye,
Blast furnaces and factories, dark houses, darker skies.
He did that photo essay, longest he ever made,
With his life savings and an agency’s aid.
Japanese in Minamata were eating poisoned fish.
Smith photographed those crippled, and shared their poisoned dish.
Smith was attacked in his crusade by company men,
But villagers stopped polluters in the end.
Smith challenged death many times for his photo stories.
The photo essay was his art; he struggled for its glories.
His compassion for the poor, the sufferers, the wronged
Shone through his master prints, and made his life’s work strong.
I met the man in Tucson when he’d had a stroke.
He walked with a cane, and had trouble when he spoke.
Yet he had a fire deep inside, a sense of justice denied,
Battling darkness on all sides even ‘til the day he died.