Wednesday, August 6, 2014


A Hiroshima Shadow

August sun.
One Little Boy.
Ten thousand shadows.

Note: On August 6, 1945, the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb ever used in war on Hiroshima, Japan.  Nicknamed "Little Boy," the bomb exploded with the force of 16 kilotons of TNT.  An estimated 70,000 to 80,000 people were killed instantly by the blast and a resultant firestorm so intense that "shadows" of some victims were permanently etched into stone. 

At Real Toads, Izy has asked for an incomplete poem.  Well, I'll be damned if I can tell if this is complete or not!  Help me out, fellow Toads; how does this come across?  Does the irony of a killing machine having such an innocent name strike you as much as it strikes me?  Is this horrifying, moving?  Or, is it just disaster poetry of the worst kind and completely useless without the explanatory note?  Help!


Hannah said...

That his image is etched into stone "steps" is striking, for very well could be complete as is though, MZ. :)

Sylvia K said...

I feel it is quite complete as is, MZ! It's heartrending and I do remember the day.

Mama Zen said...

I played with the image of Little Boy leaving shadows on the steps like toys, but I was afraid of getting too . . . purple, if you know what I mean. Still, I find that image striking, too, Hannah.

Anonymous said...

I think the poem is perfect as is. If the poem were ever published without the picture or the explanation though I think "Hiroshima Shadow" might be a helpful title rather than just Shadow. That might just be me though, I can be a little slow : )

Mama Zen said...

Think I'll meet you halfway and retitle it Hiroshima. That will give some context without giving away the close.

Fireblossom said...

You don't want to rely on an explanatory note. I agree with the above, it needs something to give a clue.

What strikes me is how haiku-like it is, given what it is about! It's like raaaaain on your wedding dayyyyyy

Jim said...

The first thing that comes to my mind is from the TV Food Network. Seems that chefs invariably call their scrumptious concoction a "Bad Boy." Same goes on the TV Speed Network when a builder had finished building up a car.

Actually you did well as is. This topic would be hard for me to write about, being that I don't even like war movies, let alone not liking wars.

Jim said...

The picture is to die for though, great! Now I know why I always carry my camera, for shots like this one.

Isadora Gruye said...

I'm familiar with this phenomena. I referenced it in my space captain poem, light this candle. I do think that as this piece stands, it could be misinterpreted, especially sans photo and note. One could say, oh yes, a child casting ten thousand shadows, the shadows we all cast of all our separate selves, or , yes it takes a village to raise a child. I would suggest adding a few more indicators to time and place. You are wise enough not to over do it..something like August 1945 Hiroshima sun. Also, I think it was an interesting choice to select one child, but by doing that you are limiting the message...what of the opium addict or the scandalous woman taking a lover and a husband, surely their shadows to are seared on some sidewalk, it might interesting to approach the loss of Hiroshima from a less innocent stand point? Just some thoughts for you....thanks for putting this out there!

Susan said...

If your title is Hiroshima, the entire poem delivers the punch I think you are going for. How dare they name that monster "little boy"?

As for Isadora's thoughtful comment, I could see you doing a series of poems as portraits of Hiroshima, but trying to make one poem carry them all would take away the starkness of your style here. Like that one person in front of the tank in Tienanmen Square, less is more.

Oh, BTW, please post this poem for my prompt at Poets United!

Helen said...

I needed no more notes than the title under the image! Awesome ~ and (horrifically) complete.

Anonymous said...

IMO it's complete with title and text intact, no or minimal process notes needed. Perhaps, just the date would suffice as the note? 8-6-45

Enigma said...

On one hand, the irony does strike me as it would strike almost every one who reads it. The image is enough to send shivers down one's spine. And the nonchalance of the name "Little Boy" only adds to it.

On the other hand, I don't think there is anything wrong with aiding the reader's understanding with a small note.

This will be a very powerful piece. I'm looking forward to reading the finished version. All the best!

Anonymous said...

Hey MZ, I agree that you may wish to change the title to make it more direct. You could change to Hiroshima or even just August 6, 1948--

I also am not sure about 10,000 shadows--of course, the death toll was infinitely higher. you could think of something like "a score of shadows." Or "thousands of shadows." I understand the benefit of the sound of ten thousand, but the casualties in the first six month were closer to 200,000. (I think -- not that much but many.)

I am a pacifist and the bomb was horrible--the second even worse-- as really so unnecessary. But I'm reading the comments above and I think it's only fair to note that it was done with the idea of saving lives. Goofy, I understand, but I think there were something like 100,000 deaths to take Okinawa, which is teeny, so there was a thought that the casualty level would be unbelievably high if they did a land invasion like they had done in Europe. I do not think they understood the longterm effects very well--if at all. So it was certainly horrific--and Nagasaki even more so--and there were probably racist elements too, which to some degree also related to a feeling that the Japanese would not surrender--just that it's complex.

What's so interesting about your poem is that it is so succinct and really, while, one is conscious of the point you are making about loss--you are just putting it out there. Whatever the intentions--so many many people died. (Which too, was part of the intention.)

Anyway--this last is just my rambling.

You could also think of putting little boy in italics--maybe you have. I would not put a note.


Kerry O'Connor said...

Do not change a thing! That second line with its double meaning is perfectly framed by lines 1 and 3.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

I, too, think it is perfect as it is. Very powerful, and the thought of peoples' "shadows" being imprinted onto concrete is horrifying. I read that today's weapons are a THOUSAND times more powerful. I hope one is never detonated.

Marian said...

yes, i think perfectly in context as-is, and very striking, very visceral. as it should be.
the title with the image also brings up for me that John Prine song, you know it? the one about Lake Elizabeth and Lake Marie? do you know what blood looks like in a black & white video? shadows. shadows!

C.C. said...

This is so moving. The innocence of the name in contrast to the horror is astounding!I agree with previous suggestions to change the title to "Hiroshima" for more of a clue, but there is power in the brevity of this. Wow!