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  • NYS Writers Institute

Poetry Friday: "August 6"

"How could I ever forget

that flash of light!"

-- Sankichi Tōge (1917 - 1953)

The Industrial Promotion Hall in Hiroshima, now known as the Genbaku Dome at the center of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial

Portrait of Tōge Sankichi by Shikoku Gorō, oil on canvas, 1977.

Poet Sankichi Tōge (峠 三吉) was 28 years old and living in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 when at 8:15 that morning, an atomic bomb code-named "Little Boy" was dropped from the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay. The bomb fell 44.4 seconds before it exploded approximately 2,000 feet above the city. It missed its intended target, the distinctive T-shaped Aioi Bridge, by approximately 800 feet and detonated directly over the Shima Surgical Clinic.

Survivors described seeing a brilliant flash of light followed a loud booming sound like thunder.

August 6

by Sankichi Tōge, translated by Karen Thornber

How could I ever forget that flash of light! suddenly 30,000 in the streets disappeared in the crushed depths of darkness the shrieks of 50,000 died out

when the swirling yellow smoke thinned buildings split, bridges collapsed packed trains rested singed and a shoreless accumulation of rubble and embers - Hiroshima before long, a line of naked bodies walking in groups, crying with skin hanging down like rags hands on chests stamping on crumbled brain matter burnt clothing covering hips

corpses lie on the parade ground like stone images of Jizo, dispersed in all directions on the banks of the river, lying one on top of another, a group that had crawled to a tethered raft

also gradually transformed into corpses beneath the sun's scorching rays and in the light of the flames that pierced the evening sky the place where mother and younger brother were pinned under alive also was engulfed in flames and when the morning sun shone on a group of high-school girls who had fled and were lying on the floor of the armory, in excrement their bellies swollen, one eye crushed, half their bodies raw flesh with skin ripped off, hairless, impossible to tell who was who all had stopped moving in a stagnant, offensive smell the only sound the wings of flies buzzing around metal basins

city of 300,000 can we forget that silence? in that stillness the powerful appeal of the white eye sockets of the wives and children who did not return home that tore apart our hearts can it be forgotten?!

Sankichi Tōge was a hibakusha (a survivor of the atomic bomb). After the war, he continued writing poetry and building a peace movement. He died from leukemia in 1953 at the age of 36. His collection

Poems of the Atomic Bomb was published in 1951.


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