by Jerome Rothenberg

         THE SEVENTH HELL: of smoke, where fire-raisers try in
                                             vain to escape from a shower
                                             of hot sand falling from a cloud

The Houses of men are on fire
                 Pity the dead in their graves
                         & the homes of the living
Pity the roofbeams whose waters burn till they're ash
Pity the old clouds devoured by the clouds of hot sand
& the sweat that's drawn out of metals pity that too
Pity the teeth robbed of gold
             The bones when their skin falls away
Pity man's cry when the sun the sun is born in his cities
& the thunder breaks down his door
             & pity the rain
For the rain falls on the deserts of man & is lost

If the mind is a house that has fallen
             Where will the eye find rest
The images rise from the marrow & cry in the blood
Pity man's voice in the smoke-filled days
             & his eyes in the darkness
Pity the sight of his eyes
         For what can a man see in the darkness
What can he see but the children's bones & the black bones buried
But the places between spaces & the places of sand
& the places of black teeth
             The faraway places
The black sand carried & the black bones buried
The black veins hanging from the open skin
             & the blood changed to glass in the night

The eye of man is on fire
             A green bird cries from his house
& opens a red eye to death
The sun drops out of a pine tree
                 Brushing the earth with its wings
For what can a man see in the morning
What can he see but the fire-raisers
             The shadow of the fire-raisers lost in the smoke
The shadow of the smoke where the hot sand is falling
The fire-raisers putting a torch to their arms
The green smoke ascending
                 Pity the children of man
Pity their bones when the skin falls away
Pity the skin devoured by fire
             The fire devoured by fire
The mind of man is on fire
             & where will his eye find rest

By Keiko Matsui Gibson

Crimson sunset in Lake Michigan.
I think of a beautiful woman
in Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped.
Was she fortunate not to be killed
with the 200,000 others?
Was she fortunate to stay alive?

Bright light
crushed her breath
windows burst
she went out
she woke far off
stuck all over
with broken glass
she couldn't scream
in blood and pain
no word would do
or will ever do
she felt the end of the world

Fujiko is more beautiful because of her scars
Fujiko is more beautiful because many men and women have loved her
Fujiko is more beautiful because she has lived alone
Fujiko is more beautiful because she has taught many students
Fujiko is more beautiful because she has always
             loved Hiroshima
Fujiko is more beautiful because she plans to live
             in a tiny farmhouse there
Fujiko is more beautiful because she does not fear
             the inevitable cancer
Fujiko is more beautiful because of her peace

The wormy scar on her neck
tells the folly of history.





Two Poems

by David Meltzer



Left in a flash


her life

a stain

a shadow on the floor



* * *     


Can't tell you anything
         You haven't heard
                 Before I say it O
God O YHWH O Plutonium
         At tongue tip
             Tasting hair of burning ghosts
                         Noh play mask
                         Whose mouth and eye holes
                                     Smoke from within
A mutilated chanter declares an ancient text.

Can't sing You anything O
             Supreme Ether O Supine
                         River of particles
Heavy with atomic waste
             Bends down this praiser
                         In disconnected prayer
                                                 Razor morning
                                                             Opens my throat
First light slice craves a city apart
         Carries it away in fire beyond
         The fire mystics rise to
Chaste in hope to reach the end
of language      Can't

tell you how wasted devotional seed
bleeds from eyes
ash in skull

first blast last sight
night sky burns daylight

this Brooklyn boy tries reading secrets
A-Bomb embedded in my mind
a talisman against history
soldiers knocking on a door
to take away survivors




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.




"The Seven Hells of Jigoku Zoshi" copyright 1990 by Jerome Rothenberg.
"My Beautiful Hiroshima Teacher" copyright 1990 by Keiko Matsui Gibson.
"Two Poems" copyright 1990 by David Meltzer.
"Three, Hiroshima" copyright 1990 and 1991 by Karl Young. First published in World's Edge, an English Language Japanese publication edited by Sherry Reniker.

Press here to go to the 1990 Shadows Project home page.

Press here to go to samples of mail art from the show.
Press here to go to a survey of the show, with panorama of works in place on walls.
Press here to go to a list of contributors to the 1990 show.
Press here to go to an essay on Shadows Projects by Karl Young.

Return to International Shadows Project home page.
Return to Light and Dust Poets.

Light and Dust Mobile Anthology of Poetry.