Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Original Child Bomb: What We Talk About When We Talk About The Bomb (Part 6)

Today is the 72nd anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki. This is the last post in the series. For now. The other posts can be found here: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4, Part 5

Nagasaki, August 1945
There are still so many issues to explore: how the collusion between science and big money (The Manhattan Project) created a legacy of how science is done to this day; the Dr. Strangelove-ian aestheticism that some feel toward the god-like power and extreme violence of these weapons; how the US government censored much of the information and imagery about the bombings from the US public and how that legacy of being treated as children has shaped how the US public sees itself in terms of each new war that has followed (as innocent children, willfully ignorant of atrocities committed in their name); and a look at nuclear weapons proliferation and the lack of interest on the part of any nuclear power to begin talking about disarmament.

Nagasaki Peace Park, 2017

Right now, today, the nuclear missile saber rattling is still going on between Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump. Two narcissistic leaders, consumed with their own power; showing the world, through their reckless rhetoric, what deep insecurities they have about their manhood. It would be almost funny…but mostly sad…if you saw this threat and counter-threat going on in a bar…but we're talking about nuclear weapons. Too many lives are at stake. As I've said a few times in this series: NO ONE should have this kind of power. Not the US, not North Korea, not Russia, not China, or any other countries possessing a nuclear arsenal. No one is capable of handling it.

A Shadow Etched in Stone

Nagasaki, 1945
As I explored different aspects of the nuclear weapons debate, specifically taking a good, long look at the strategy of bombing civilians in general, the image of the shadow etched in stone on the steps of a bank in Hiroshima kept coming back to me. The shadow without body, an image of a person who is not there, anonymous, became etched deep into my mind, and, for a time, I couldn't shake it. It appeared in my mind's eye before sleep, and returned when I woke up. Who was that? Why were they waiting in front of the bank? Did they have money worries? What did they hear that morning before the blast? Birds? Trolleys?

Nagasaki, 1945
I began to see the image of the shadow on the stone steps as a symbol for all those who have ever died, or suffered terrible loss, from falling bombs - not just Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims - but all the dead everywhere. When bombs begin falling, civilians become shadows without bodies. No one considers all those bodies in their decision-making process. Which leads me to a conclusion about the nuclear bombing of the two Japanese cities in 1945: it is my belief that once war is declared and the fighting begins - a hideous and morally indefensible decision like that is bound to be made.

Shadow Poem

Mother & Child/Hiroshima, August 1945
During the weeks when I could not shake the image of the shadow in stone, a poem began to form. The subject matter called to mind the writing of Paul Celan - creating a balance between the desperate urge to give something so terrible a voice and the desire to remain silent as an appropriate form of reverence to the magnitude of the pain and loss suffered. I started reading Celan again. After I finished the poem, I realized that the last half of the last line is from one of Celan's later, more fragmentary poems. So, a gassho to Celan for helping me finish it.

Absence: Shadow


What is always there
is what is not there.


A lifted leg, deep in stone.
Running, deeper into stone.


No tongue, can't say the word.
Take it, please take it, my word.


Money worries. Morning heat.
The heart. A bird.


No skin. No sense.
Take it, take it, my cheek against stone.


At what temperature
does love burn?


No lifted hand, gesturing for water.
Take it, please take it, drink from my mouth.

(for all the dead from falling bombs)

Hiroshima Peace March, 2017

 Other resources:

Nagasaki: the forgotten victim of nuclear terror (article about Southard's book)

Hiroshima by John Hersey

Peace crane offerings at the Children's Peace Memorial, Hiroshima


ICAN: international campaign to abolish nuclear weapons:

Nuclear Age Peace Foundation:


Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament:

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