No More Hiroshimas – James Kirkup (b. 1923,
At the station exit, my bundle in my hand,
Early the winter afternoonfs 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
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,
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 stationfs 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
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 Childrenfs Monument.
A hideous pile, the Atomic Bomb Explosion Centre, freezing cold,
Atomic-melted slates and bricks, photos showing
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.