What would Jesus do?

Bethlehem © Jim Korpi

A moment can stay in a photographer’s head for life. This is one of those.
Bethlehem, the supposed birthplace of Jesus, is a city-sized prison. It exists within the West Bank, a small country-sized prison. I say this with no political posturing but with the memory of observation. I’ve never witnessed something so unjust.
Streets in the holy city were sparse, buildings vacant, shuttered. While photographing, I saw very few people. Walking down one main road, I saw a man pushing his wheelchair almost down the middle of the street. He would stop and point something towards the sky. As I got closer I realized the man had a small digital camera in his hand. I approached him and asked what he was photographing. “The sky,” he said. “The clouds are beautiful.”
To this day the hairs on my arms raise with goosebumps and my throat tightens with possible tears when I think of this man in his wheelchair making photographs of the clouds. An outsider would consider his situation Hell, but somehow this man smiles and finds joy at the sight of a beautiful sky.

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Ten Inches

Plain & Simple, Amish Country, Ohio © Jim Korpi

Ten inches fell on his driveway and everywhere around it.
The snow is downy and the air stiff with temperatures well below freezing. This he knows to be the best time for clearing.
His shovel hangs ready in the garage beside the spade, leaf rake, and garden fork. All these will now rest for the winter while the snow shovel carries on from here.
The mailman refuses to drive up his long, steep driveway with snow. This bothers him none. He prefers to be left alone.
Shoveling starts with the walkways. They are then swept clean. His footprint forms packed, hardened tracks on the paths, so he scrapes these away with the sharp edge of the shovel. If the snow melts and again freezes, he knows his paths will be ice.
He plows lines and throws loads ahead of himself as the shovel fills. A pain in his lower back pulses. He is sure not to look ahead at the covered driveway as he notices light flakes beginning to fall again.
Tomorrow another ten inches is in the forecast.

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Property Line, Athens, Ohio © Jim Korpi

“Why is it some of the older men we know seem grumpy and some just happy to be alive?” I ask a friend in the shade of the kitchen.
It’s painfully hot outside and the air damp.
His skin is speckled with hay stuck to his face and bare arms, and his hair resembles a bird’s nest. His shirt is plastered to his chest as if he swam with it on.
The loft in the barn is now full and ready for the coming winter.
He takes a minute to think and swallow a quart jar of water.
“I think it’s just what they did for a living. Some people had it easy, some hard.”

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The Park, Milan, Italy © Jim Korpi

“I hope to spend three days in Washington,” the tourist said of her itinerary to the United States with a heavy Australian drawl. “I want to see the Forest Gump bench and the Legally Blonde Lincoln Statue.”

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Resurrecturis, Codogno, Italy © Jim Korpi

We could hear him at night snoring through the thick cement walls. It was almost comforting, the soft rhythmic vibrations, but peculiar to fall asleep to the breathing of a neighbor you have only said hello to in the entryway but who lives and sleeps just a few feet away.
He would come home from an afternoon at the bar and play Pink Floyd on the stereo and sing along to it in a different key.
His apartment has been silent for a week. No snoring, no music.
The police arrived on Wednesday and found him dead on the other side of the wall separating his apartment from ours.
His black cat, who we nicknamed Bianca, continues to meow outside in front of his closed front door.

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