Monday Feature by Michaela Kahn: Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki

It seemed appropriate, this post coming between Hiroshima Day (Aug 6) and Nagasaki Day (Aug 9) that it focus on remembering those two cities that were the first to feel the full destructive horror of atomic weapons.

Living in New Mexico, we at the center of the birth of the atomic age – with Los Alamos and Trinity Site both in the state. Every year in Los Alamos there is a peaceful gathering and march to mark the anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The march itself, and the meditative period of witness (which is timed to the hour and minute when the bombs dropped) at the march’s end, are both silent. Cars drive by. Some honk in solidarity. Many faces turn to stare in anger or horror. More turn away nervously. And a few drive by giving the marchers the finger and yelling obscenities. Los Alamos labs employs the majority of the town, and they are still in the weapons business.
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Yasuhiko Shigemoto, a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing (he was 15 and happened to be working on some tunnels at the edge of the city when the bomb dropped, so he was badly burned, but lived), did not start writing poetry until he was 55. While many Japanese poets have eschewed the haiku as a means to talk about the bombings – Shigemoto believed that the distillation of haiku’s brevity could be quite profound.

Here is a link to an article about Shigemoto’s experience and work: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/the-art-of-horror-and-survival-in-17-syllables-5347029.html.

And here is a brief selection of his haiku … The second hits me full in the gut every time I read it.

THE HAIKUS OF HIROSHIMA

The sunset glow –
Hiroshima
as if still burning

Still being alive
seems to be a sin for me
Hiroshima Day

Gathering bones
on Hiroshima’s burnt earth
under the blazing sun

The children hunting
a cicada – not seeing
the Atom Bomb Dome

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