Hiroshima, 50 th Anniversary, poem by Janice Rubin


    Wind twists and turns paper cranes
    pink, red and orange, strung together
    social activists, carrying children
    scattered under the park shelter
    gathering of the concerned
    those who lived through WW ll
    along with dread haired youth
    still fighting the old fights.

    Native American woman of the Kalapuya tribe speaks
    looking out beyond the crowd
    talking about the old ones
    in New York and Chicago dying from the heat
    the little girl with asthma
    it hurts when she breaths.

    Everything has changed
    all of her people decimated
    lines in her face deep
    black hair streaked with gray
    radiation had destroyed the thyroids of the salmon
    swimming in circles
    they don't know where to spawn.

    Laid out on the picnic tables
    tomatoes, zucchini, bell peppers,
    tahini and tabuli in recycled containers.
    up from the banks of the river which flows though the city
    transients arrive
    children elderly citizens, homeless men
    Native Americans, Japanese all eat together.

    2.(Manhattan Project)

    A physics professor from this small town's college
    sits on a park bench
    transfixed, the irony of his life astonishes him
    leaves him stunned
    he floats like a particle of dust
    between a moment 50 years ago and the present moment
    he worked on the Manhattan Project
    anonymous, he looks around the gathering.

    3.(Nagasaki, Hiroshima)

    The last speaker survived the bombing of Hiroshima
    bright morning, blue skies, sunshine
    hearing the sound of airplanes
    he looked out the window, saw three B29's
    sleek silver pens
    streak across the blue summer sky
    sunshine glinting off silver wings
    a blast of red and orange like a sunset
    then pink, it was dark as midnight.

    He felt pressure against his body
    hid under a school desk
    equations written on the blackboard, E=MC2.
    his hands covered his eyes, ears sticky with wet blood
    many small cuts from flying glass
    blown inward from the window
    slow motion, millions of points of light and dust
    matter cascading inward, down upon itself, imploding
    beautiful but deadly
    Yeats predicted, the center cannot hold
    nothing left of the building but the first and second floor beams
    his schoolmates dead or dying.

    4. (Aftermath)

    Small Japanese man, western bolo tie
    polished amber agate, sky blue jacket
    apologizes before he tells his story
    he doesn't want to offend anyone
    not the pentagon, the white house or the military.

    He describes the twelve and thirteen year old boys
    drafted early that year, their duty, to clean up the center of the city
    that morning their skin dripped and pealed off their bodies
    they walked like ghosts toward the outside of the city looking for water
    parched arms, extended palms, upward, away from their bodies
    puffed and swollen, they would soon die.

    He looked towards Hiroshima, the old city
    saw black smoke curling into clouds
    he begins to cry, he suffered with fever and diarrhea for two weeks
    his body shed the radiation
    summer morning, the red and orange explosion
    the mushroom cloud
    the pink aftermath, the final darkness
    indelibly imprinted
    on his mind's eye.

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Jeanine Stevens