Karl Young - "Three, Hiroshima"


by Karl Young

you didn't see the coffee cup on the window sill
you didn't see the wings of golden throated birds rise in the blue sky
you didn't see the newly pressed linens folded on the shelf
you didn't see the lace of orange and purple light in the screens at sunset
you didn't see the ducks land on the water smooth as a mirror
you didn't see the polished copper pans hung neatly in their places
you didn't see the dust in the sunlight coming in between the slats in the blind
you didn't see the postman light his pipe in his favorite chair
you didn't see the eagle circle in the shape of the valley
you didn't see the sparks fly from the hammer
you didn't see the mother sitting in the shade with the child at her breast
you didn't see the torrent of water pour from the sluice into the paths of the desert
you didn't see the city lights in the rain
you didn't see the throngs dancing on the quay
you didn't see the stars shining over the sleeping town
you didn't see the masts of the schooners appear above the horizon
you didn't see the fishermen bellow at each other as they emptied their shivering nets
you didn't see the lovers kick red leaves as they walked hand in hand
you didn't see the boy standing silently in his father's cemetery
you didn't see the old women laughing in the steambath
you didn't see the sailors showing off their tattoos on the wharf
you didn't see the sisters waiting to catch the bouquet at the wedding
you didn't see the workmen playing cards after the harvest
you didn't see the pleasantly tired swimmers brushing sand from their feet
you didn't see the driver singing to fill the empty hours
you didn't see the cardboard dragon sway through the crowded and narrow street
you didn't see the garden vegetables steaming on the shining plates
you didn't see the storm coming up in the puddle of water
you didn't see the barometer fall in the dying man's mahogany cabinet
you didn't see the worried girl comb the shore for the lost ring
you didn't see the anxious nurse pace the dimly lit hallway
you didn't see the thirsty refugees begging for water
you didn't see the wife concealing her tumor
you didn't see the little girl dream of her family with a starfish in her lap
you didn't see the lost traveler laugh in his sleep
you didn't see the ceiling beams in the deserted house
you didn't see the turning shafts of light in front of the car coming down the mountain road
you didn't see frost knit into floral patterns on the pane of the bedroom window
you didn't see the fox stop on the forgotten mosaic
you didn't see the pears ripen in the ancient orchard
you didn't see the drops of water hesitate on the stalactites
you didn't see the moon through the bamboo waving at midnight
you didn't see the snowflakes fall in the hushed forest
you didn't see the whales leap in the distant ocean
you didn't see the waves singing

the citadel faces its own darkness
the depth of the abyss has always disturbed us
we loved symbols without memory
we pretended to be invulnerable
we were bound by our word
all the talking drained us of feeling
people were watching
we were suffocating from all the breathing around us
we pretended our mirrors and shells would protect us
we loved and disdained rainbows and scarabs with all our hearts
the round covers rise from the underground chambers
terrified multitudes crowd the mountain roads
a voice that was not our own gave the order
we turned pale at the voice
we looked at what we feared to see
we couldn't do anything so hideous
the darkness of the underground chambers exhaled warm air
we were frozen with terror incapable of the slightest movement
the world had rejoiced hungry for lies
the chambers of the underground fortress open before us
we could have tried courage
we lowered our eyes
the platter was heavy
we only wanted to flee
the emptiness of words freezes our hearts
the shadow was always advancing before us
it'll all be over in just a few minutes
the shore of the dead sea makes a circle around us
our death keeps going on and on
we stood like petrified waves
it'll all be over in just a minute
who are you
we could try reason
who are you
we could try courage
who are you
the moment is escaping
we couldn't do anything so hideous
the moment is escaping
our death keeps going on an on
we couldn't do anything so hideous
the citadel faces its own darkness
it'll all be over in just a minute
the moment is escaping
who are you

                the warmth of your body  deformed bicycle green in the twilight
                                         anonymous ashes in the river at dawn
                     storm of burnt iron
                                         river remembers
                             rain panics
                                         ocean turns deadly at twilight
         boredom falls as if it mattered
                                         morality sinks in the film
                           twisted barns
                                         asphalt at noon 
            sand bars long for schedules
                                         the navigation of infinitesimal mirrors
        eternity screams on its birthday
                                         trucks hide their shadows
                           child of neon
                                         hungry cellars in the darkness
         gray shame aroused by the hours
                                         a wife in the mountains
             a husband in a fishing boat
                                         a child in the emptiness of another dawn
         the bitter river turns its face
                                         soft light on betrayal
                          bridge to hair
                                         walls bleed
                      rooms claw the sky
                                         fear cries alone in the sunlight
  saltpeter tastes the skin of the bells
                                         disgrace acts out the clicking of nails
gardens of rust forget the cold twilight
                                         the faucet answers
        bottle caps collect fearful dust
                                         the river's hands reach for burns
children of the river drink the gray sky
                                         the children of the sky sink in the river
                     the river is reason
                                         the children of agony ask for reason
                      the river vanishes
                                         clusters of petrified promises
                   carpeted with flowers
                                         wild iris
                           tortured iron
                                         dawn watches
                              noon waits
                                         sunset makes promises
              bells ring in the darkness the temperature of warm oceans

The vocabulary for this poem was drawn from English equivalents of French words in Gustave Flaubert's Trois contes and Marguerite Duras's Hiroshima, mon amour.

Written in June and July, 1990 for the International Shadows Project; revised July, 1991.

First published in World's Edge, an English Language Japanese publication edited by Sherry Reniker.

Copyright © 1991 by Karl Young.

Light and Dust @ Grist Mobile Anthology of Poetry.