The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been memorialised in poetry across the world. Below are three short poems produced by survivors of the bombings and anti-nuclear poets.
Hiroshima by Agyega
On this day, the sun
Appeared-no, not slowly over the horizon-
But right in the city square.
A blast of dazzle poured over,
Not from the middle sky,
But from the earth torn raggedly open.
Human shadows, dazed and lost, pitched
In every direction: this blaze,
Not risen from the east,
Smashed in the city’s heart–
An immense wheel
Of Death’s swart suncar, spinning down and apart
In every direction.
Instant of a sun’s rise and set.
Vision-annihilating flare one compressed noon.
It was not human shadows that lengthened, paled, and died;
It was men suddenly become as mist, then gone.
The shadows stay:
Burned on rocks, stones of these vacant streets.
A sun conjured by men converted men to air, to nothing;
White shadows singed on the black rock give back
Man’s witness to himself.
Sachchidananda Vatsyayan (1911-1987) known as ‘Agyeya’, was an Indian writer, poet, novelist, literary critic, journalist, translator and revolutionary in Hindi language.
August 6 by Sankichi Tōge, translated by Karen Thornber
can we forget that flash?
suddenly 30,000 in the streets disappeared
in the crushed depths of darkness
the shrieks of 50,000 died out
when the swirling yellow smoke thinned
buildings split, bridges collapsed
packed trains rested singed
and a shoreless accumulation of rubble and embers – Hiroshima
before long, a line of naked bodies walking in groups, crying
with skin hanging down like rags
hands on chests
stamping on crumbled brain matter
burnt clothing covering hips
corpses lie on the parade ground like stone images of Jizo, dispersed in all
on the banks of the river, lying one on top of another, a group that had crawled to
a tethered raft
also gradually transformed into corpses beneath the sun’s scorching rays
and in the light of the flames that pierced the evening sky
the place where mother and younger brother were pinned under alive
also was engulfed in flames
and when the morning sun shone on a group of high-school girls
who had fled and were lying
on the floor of the armory, in excrement
their bellies swollen, one eye crushed, half their bodies raw flesh with skin ripped
off, hairless, impossible to tell who was who
all had stopped moving
in a stagnant, offensive smell
the only sound the wings of flies buzzing around metal basins
city of 300,000
can we forget that silence?
in that stillness
the powerful appeal
of the white eye sockets of the wives and children who did not return home
that tore apart our hearts
can it be forgotten?!
Sankichi Tōge (1917 – 1953) was a Japanese poet, activist and survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. His collection ‘Poems of the Atomic Bomb’ was published in 1951.
Let Us Be Midwives! by Sadako Kurihara, translated by Richard Minear
Night in the basement of a concrete structure now in ruins.
Victims of the atomic bomb jammed the room;
It was dark—not even a single candle.
The smell of fresh blood, the stench of death,
The closeness of sweaty people, the moans.
From out of all that, lo and behold, a voice:
“The baby’s coming!”
In that hellish basement,
At that very moment, a young woman had gone into labour.
In the dark, without a single match, what to do?
People forgot their own pains, worried about her.
And then: “I’m a midwife. I’ll help with the birth.”
The speaker, seriously injured herself, had been moaning only moments before.
And so new life was born in the dark of that pit of hell.
And so the midwife died before dawn, still bathed in blood.
Let us be midwives!
Let us be midwives!
Even if we lay down our own lives to do so.
Sadako Kurihara (1913 – 2005) was a poet, writer and peace activist who survived the Hiroshima bombing.