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Mitsuyoshi Toge, born in Hiroshima in 1917, was a Catholic and a poet. He was in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped on the city on August 6, 1945, when he was 24 years old. Toge died at the age of thirty-six. His first hand experience of the bomb, his passion for peace, and his realistic insight into the event made him a leading poet in Hiroshima. This poem is from Hiroshima-Nagasaki: A Pictorial Record of the Atomic Destruction (1978).

How could I ever forget that flash of light!
In a moment, thirty thousand people ceased to be,
The cries of fifty thousand killed
At the bottom of crushing darkness;

Through yellow smoke whirling into light,
Buildings split, bridges collapsed,
Crowded trams burnt as they rolled about
Hiroshima , all full of boundless heaps of embers.
Soon after, skin dangling like rags;
With hands on breasts;
Treading upon the broken brains;
Wearing shreds of burn cloth round their loins;
There came numberless lines of the naked,
                all crying.
Bodies on the parade ground, scattered like
                jumbled stone images of Jizo;
Crowds in piles by the river banks,
                loaded upon rafts fastened to the shore,
Turned by and by into corpses
                under the scorching sun;
in the midst of flame
                tossing against the evening sky,
Round about the street where mother and
                brother were trapped alive under the fallen house
The fire-flood shifted on.
On beds of filth along the Armory floor,
Heaps, and God knew who they were …
Heaps of schoolgirls lying in refuse
Pot-bellied, one-eyed, with half their skin peeled
                off bald.
The sun shone, and nothing moved
But the buzzing flies in the metal basins
Reeking with stagnant ordure.
How can I forget that stillness
Prevailing over the city of three hundred thousands?
Amidst that calm,
How can I forget the entreaties
Of departed wife and child
Through their orbs of eyes,
Cutting through our minds and souls?


For Hiroshima-Nagasaki memorial service resources, please go to Faithful Security (National Religious Partnership on the Nuclear Weapons Danger).

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