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Poetry

Commemorating Hiroshima: Poetry by Suzanne Kamata

Three moving poems on the nuclear blasts that ended the Second World War and the lives of many innocents in Hiroshima & Nagasaki on August 6th and 9th, 1945, respectively.

Courtesy: Creative Commons
Hiroshima School for Girls

August 6, 1945

The day began like any other:
all of us lined up for morning
drills beneath a clear sky,
mock wooden rifles propped against
our shoulders. Suddenly there was a sharp
blue light like a camera flash.

Teacher cried 
“Down!”
We tossed our
guns aside, dropped to
the ground, thumbs in
ears, fingers over
eyes to protect
them from damage
just as we’d practiced.

(Published first in Skipping Stones)

At that Moment

I was in the schoolyard
singing the Student Brigade song
when a B-29 flew overhead.
A verse appeared in my mind:
Madness reigned
on the the bloody
battleground of Saipan.
After the flash
silence
the city, destroyed
transformed into ruins.
Next thing I knew
I was sitting in a field
barefoot
gazing at clouds of dust
houses without roofs.
Rain began to fall
drops drumming on
the ground, my body
staining my uniform
with brown spots.
Everything around me was
painted gray.
Burnt people lay along
the riverbanks. A woman
stared from swollen sockets
her hair charred
only a wisp of clothing on
her shoulders. From her
twisted mouth:
My child! My child.

My Daughter

Etsuko left home wearing
baggy pants and a straw hat,
school bag on her back.
At 8:15
flash
explosion
inferno
Men and women
burnt, drooping
drifting from Hiroshima
like sleepwalkers.
We waited.
Etsuko didn’t return.
Clinging to hope we searched
through smoldering rubble
heaps of corpses, among
ravaged victims pleading
for water, begging for help
naked women stooping at
bridge girders.
At 6 p.m.
we headed home.
Someone said, “Etsuko’s here!”


But she was scorched, every
limb swollen, her eyes blinded.
“I was with a friend,”
Etsuko said. “We went
west with the wind
crawled across the train
bridge, came back to Koi.”
I brought her to the
emergency clinic where scores
were treated, died anyway.
The next day, Etsuko
opened her eyes. A miracle:
“I can see!” she said.
”Good. We’ll be going
home soon.”
Etusko gazed at me
and departed this world at
10:15.

(“At that Moment” and “My Daughter” were first published in When Women Waken)


Suzanne Kamata was born and raised in Grand Haven, Michigan. She now lives in Japan with her husband and two children. Her short stories, essays, articles and book reviews have appeared in over 100 publications. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times, and received a Special Mention in 2006. She is also a two-time winner of the All Nippon Airways/Wingspan Fiction Contest, winner of the Paris Book Festival, and winner of a SCBWI Magazine Merit Award.

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