Dying

For today, a poem by Töge Sankichi (1912-1953) from the book Poems of the Atomic Bomb, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima, reprinted here from Jerome Rothenberg & Pierre Joris’ anthology Poems for the Millennium, vol. 2:

On the morning of August 6, 1945, at home in a part of town more than three kilometers from Ground Zero, I was just about to set out for downtown Hiroshima when the bomb fell, and I escaped merely with cuts from splinters of glass and with atomic bomb sickness… Today everyone knows that at Hiroshima about 300,000 people were killed in the blast of a single atomic bomb. And at Nagasaki, 100,000 or so.

Dying

!
Loud in my ear: screams.
Soundlessly welling up,
pouncing on me:
space, all upside-down.
Hanging, fluttering clouds of dust
smelling of smoke,
and, running madly about, figures.
“Ah,
get out
of here!”
Scattering fragments of brick,
I spring to my feet;
my body’s
on fire.
The hot blast
that blew me down from behind
set sleeves, shoulders
on fire.
Amid the smoke I grab
a corner of the cement water tank;
my head —
already in.
The clothes I splash water on
burn, drop off:
gone.
Wires, boards, nails, glass,
a rippling wall of tiles.
Fingerrnails burn:
heels—gone;
plastered to my back: a sheet of molten lead.
“Owww!”
Flames already
blacken;
telephone poles, walls, too.
Eddies
of flame and smoke
blow down on my broken head.
“Hiro-chan! Hiro-chan!”
Press hand to breast:
ah—a bloody cotton hole.
Fallen, I cry—
Child! Child! Child! Where are you?
Amid the smoke that crawls along the ground—
where could they have come from?—
hand in hand
round and round as in a bon dance,
naked girls:
one falls, all fall.
From under tiles,
someone else’s shoulder:
a hairless old woman,
driven up by the heat,
writhing, crying shrilly.
Besides the road where flames already flicker,
stomachs distended like great drums,
even their lips torn off:
lumps of red flesh.
A hand that grabs my ankle
splips off, peels off.
Am eyeball that pleads at my feet.
A head boiled white.
Hair, brain matter my hand presses down on.
Steamy smoke; fiery air that rushes at me.
Amid the darkness of flying sparks:
children’s eyes, the color of gold.
Burning body,
scalding throat;
arm
that suddenly collapses:
shoulder
that sinks into the ground.
Oh, I can go
no farther.
In the lonely dark,
the thunder in my ears suddenly fades.
Ah!
Why?
Why here
by the side of the road
cut off, dear, from you;
why
must
I
die
?

[translation from the Japanese by Richard Minear]

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1 Response

  1. loveandrage says:

    really powerful

    linking to this ASAP

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