In 1945, I heard my parents discuss the death of their families in Hiroshima. A child, I didn’t know the significance of that day, a day that my ancestors were all destroyed.
I later wrote:
We cut the chrysanthemum
Off its stalk
And left it naked in the sun.
(from The Enemy Wore My Face,not yet published)
In 1989, Noriyo, a third grader from Hiroshima entered my classroom. Her grandmother, who was child during the bombing, was now dying from cancer. Her entire family moved to Hawaii on their doctor’s recommendation: Go to Hawaii where it’s warm and sunny for the remaining year of her life.” I wrote a poem for Noriyo:
44 Years Later
a dark mushroom cloud
follows me across the Pacific
into my classroom.
forgive us, Noriyo
( from The Enemy Wore My Face, not yet published)
In 1995, Dr. Jiro Nakano edited and translated 100 tanka poems written by survivors (hibakusha) of Hiroshima in a book called Outcry From the Inferno. I was deeply honored to be one of the English editors.
In 2010, I read Charles Pellegrino’s The Last Train from Hiroshima.
Nothing, not the discussions in our kitchen, my poems, the editing I did to Outcry From the Inferno, nothing is more real than this book. A tanka by Dr. Nagai, one of the survivors in Pellegrino’s book, is included in the Inferno book. One of the survivors bears the same name of my mother’s family. Mr. Pellegrino, thank you for the open wounds that will never be healed nor forgotten.