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No More Hiroshimas – James Kirkup (b. 1923, England)


At the station exit, my bundle in my hand,

Early the winter afternoonfs wet snow

Falls thinly round me, out of a crudded sun.

I had forgotten to remember where I was

Looking about, I see it might be anywhere –

A station, a town like any other in Japan,

Ramshackle, muddy, noisy, drab; a cheerfully

Shallow permanence: peeling concrete, litter, eAtomic

Lotion, for hair fall-out,f a flimsy department-store;

Racks and towers of neon, flashy over tiled and tilted waves

Of little roofs, shacks cascading lemons and persimmons,

Oranges and dark-red apples, shanties awash with rainbows

Of squid and octopus, shellfish, slabs or tuna, oysters, ice,

Ablaze with fans of soiled nude-picture books

Thumbed abstractedly by schoolboys, with second-hand looks.




The river remains unchanged, sad, refusing rehabilitation

In this long, wide, empty, official boulevard

The new trees are still small, the office blocks

Barely functional, the bridge a slick abstraction.

But the river remains unchanged, sad, refusing rehabilitation.


In the city centre, far from the stationfs lively squalor,

A kind of life goes on, in cinemas and hi-fi coffee bars,

In the shuffling racket of pin-table palaces and parlous,

The souvenir-shops piled with junk, kimonoed kewpie-dolls,

Models of the bombed Industry Promotion Hall, memorial ruin

Tricked out with glitter-frost and artificial pearls.


Set in an awful emptiness, the modern tourist hotel is trimmed

With jaded Christmas frippery, flatulent balloons; in the hall,

A giant dingy iced cake in the shape of a Cinderella coach.

Deserted, my room an overheated morgue, the bar in darkness.

Punctually, the electric chimes ring out across the tidy waste

Their doleful public hymn – the tune unrecognisable, evangelist

Here atomic peace is geared to meet the tourist trade.

Let it remain like this, for all the world to see,

Without nobility or loveliness, and dogged with shame

That is beyond all hope of indignation. Anger, too, is dead.

And why should memorials of what was far

From pleasant have the grace that helps us to forget?


In the dying afternoon, I wander dying round the Park of Peace.

It is right, this squat, dead place, with its left-over air

Of an abandoned International Trade and Tourist Fair.

The stunted trees are wrapped in straw against the cold.

The gardeners are old, old women in blue bloomers, white aprons,

Survivors weeding the dead brown lawns around the Childrenfs Monument.


A hideous pile, the Atomic Bomb Explosion Centre, freezing cold,

eIncludes the Peace Tower, a museum containing

Atomic-melted slates and bricks, photos showing

What the Atomic Desert looked like, and other

Relics of the catastrophe.f


The other relics:

The ones that made me weep;

The bits of burnt clothing,

The stopped watches, the torn shirts.

The twisted buttons,

The stained and tattered vests and drawers,

The ripped kimonos and charred boots,

The white blouse polka-dotted with atomic rain, indelible,

The cotton summer pants the blasted boys crawled home in, to bleed

And slowly to die.


Remember only these.

They are the memorials we need.