Saturday, August 06, 2005

In Memoriam

August 6: A meditation


So listen: you wake
to the sound of a single aircraft
thrumming its way toward your city
through the morning skies. At your side
your wife is awakened also, by the sound,
and rouses, alarmed, her first instinct
the protection of your children.
But you calm her, bringing your hand
gently, to touch her shoulder, the long fall
of her hair, reassuring her, with love in your eyes.
A single aircraft. You recall the stories
of skies blackened with them, bombers,
thousands of them, coming
in wave after wave over Tokyo;
of the thick rainfall of bombs, high explosives,
incendiaries; the firestorm; the terror.
You have heard all this, and the sound, now,
of the approaching aircraft brings with it
a sense of dread, yes, in your heart, but in your head
you reassure yourself, thinking,
a single aircaraft, this cannot be too bad.
So you lie back down, the two of you,
on your tatami mats, gazing into each other's eyes,
not knowing, of course, unable to know
that this will be the last time.
Gazing into the beauty of her face,
you think, for one single, improbable moment
of making love. Then it happens:
what someone later described as a blinding white flash,
an infinitessimal second of unimaginable silence.
Then the din, unbearable. The shock waves, worse
than any earthquake, the heat
searing your flesh. Your wife, incomprehensibly
lies dead beside you. You hear,
from the children's room, the stark screams
of pain and terror.The walls of your house
are suddenly sheer flames,
and you find youself running, through them,
to find your children. You find them.
The flesh on their bodies, on their faces,
incomprehensibly, is seared.
And you realize now, to your horror,
that yours, too, is seared, that the skin
is peeling from your face, as it is from theirs.
You dare not touch them. You would want
to seize them in your arms, to comfort them,
but you dare not reach for them, for fear
their small bodies would disintegrate
at your touch. Instead, you lead them,
screaming still, out from the flames
that were your house, and into the flames
that were your street. Below,
where you once enjoyed, from this hillside
at the outskirts, a fine view of your city,
a glow illuminates a vast circle
... of nothing. The great path of the river
snakes through... nothing. Incomprehensibly,
the city is gone, the great buildings...
gone. There is nothing left, now,
but the afterglow that seems
in some ominous, unearthly way,
to palpitate, to reach out towards you,
grasping at you, and your children,
and your neighbors, those who survived,
as they begin to gather now, their eyes
uncomprehending, searching among the ruins
for their wounded and their dead.


So, Bush, I need to ask you: what would you have done, on this day, back in 1945? With your finger on the trigger? With American lives at stake? A vain question, perhaps. The real question, the hard one, is what would I have done, with that power at my disposal? The power of life or death over tens of thousands of civilians... or tens of thousands of military men? Imponderable... And yet we have still not learned. We still repeat that vapid "Never again," and go right back to doing it again. At least I hope that you, Bush, as a praying man, said a prayer today for all those who died, and are still dying to this day, from the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

2 comments:

dennis said...

Peter: And many people don't know about the fire bombing of factory towns which killed thousands more. Punishment killing.

I have a fantasy that the Hiroshima Memorial , a powerful exhibit, be brought to Dallas or Houston for extended exhibition. Or some other militant US state.

Did you see the news articles here recently about how the young in Hiroshima are not interested in the memorial? Some there are suggesting other attractions at the park to get more young to go there. A sort of Disney park with the atrocities of Hiroshima as a sideshow?

Did you see the news about the lone protester at Bush Ranch, Crawford? 200 million and we can only scrape up one protestor!

denn

dennis said...

Peter: Your diary entry to Bush is great irony, because it's precisely that bomb that headed the US down the road to profitable militarism as policy.