The Anniversary of the Bombing of Hiroshima
August 6, 1983

more floating than walking
ghostlike with hands
we offer our candles
each in its own paper boat
to the water

it’s the japanese ritual
of remembering
we form an endless
pale yellow procession
encircling the still pond
with soft fire

they say that each small flame
holds the spirit of one lost
that day -- 38 years past --

i imagine how
the sky opened into light
-- a huge display

on earth
a child exploded into fragments
a hand dismembered
glued to the wall
with a black crust

they list a list of names
foreign names
40 years old -- man
12 years old -- girl
16 years old -- woman
it continues, a ritual drone
(and how do you judge if the 38
year old ashes of a 16 year old
corpse never found are woman or

i know more personal stories of death
with blue-eyed soldiers
who laugh
who toss babies into the air
and catch them on the tips
of their bayonets
their mothers watching

and i know about ditches
with families lined up
in front of them
with shovels

my father’s father
and my father’s mother died like that
and thousands more
and have we learned from that?
and what have we learned?

us with words like viet nam
el salvador

our procession is silent
about the water
from a distance
someone is playing an oboe
rehearsed many hours
for this moment

a small flock of ducks
holding tight formation
glides dimly
amongst the glowing
the ducks are curious

above us safely
our own small stars
shimmer peacefully

beside me bare chested
my tall young son
is standing golden

i notice how his body
is lengthening out
his arms
rounding into muscles
at 8
he is becoming a man

i am afraid to look up
for fear of an airplane

it is true
we humans have captured
the essence of an almighty god
once just imagined

we could indeed make it happen
some magnificent night

in the sky
a glorious white light
on earth
the muffled scream
of a candle going out

Joan Dobbie
Copyright 1988