August 6, 1945, World War II – The U.S. B-29 Enola Gay dropped the “Little Boy” atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. 70,000 people died instantly, thousands died from burns, and more died over the following years from radiation. The date is commemorated by the Hiroshima Peace Ceremony & Peace Message Lantern Floating in Japan, and as Hiroshima Day in the U.S. and UK.
Sankichi Tōge (1917 – 1953) was a Japanese poet, activist, and survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. His collection “Poems of the Atomic Bomb” was published in 1951. Karen Thornber is a recipient of the 2011 Sibley Prize from the University of Chicago for her translation of his collection.
To read the poem “August 6” by Sankichi Tōge click:
by Sankichi Tōge
can we forget that flash?
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
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?!
– translated by Karen Thornber
© 1951 by Sankichi Tōge