Welcome to Hiroshima

Welcome to Hiroshima

by Mary Jo Salter
is what you first see, stepping off the train:
a billboard brought to you in living English
by Toshiba Electric. While a channel
silent in the TV of the brain

projects those flickering re-runs of a cloud
that brims its risen columnful like beer
and, spilling over, hangs its foamy head,
you feel a thirst for history: what year

it started to be safe to breathe the air,
and when to drink the blood and scum afloat
on the Ohta River. But no, the water’s clear,
they pour it for your morning cup of tea

in one of the countless sunny coffee shops
whose plastic dioramas advertise
mutations of cuisine behind the glass:
a pancake sandwich; a pizza someone tops

with a maraschino cherry. Passing by
the Peace Park’s floral hypocenter (where
how bravely, or with what mistaken cheer,
humanity erased its own erasure),

you enter the memorial museum
and through more glass are served, as on a dish
of blistered grass, three mannequins. Like gloves
a mother clips to coatsleeves, strings of flesh

hang from their fingertips; or as if tied
to recall a duty for us, Reverence
the dead whose mourners too shall soon be dead,

but all commemoration’s swallowed up

in questions of bad taste, how re-created
horror mocks the grim original,
and thinking at last They should have left it all
you stop. This is the wristwatch of a child.

Jammed on the moment’s impact, resolute
to communicate some message, although mute,
it gestures with its hands at eight-fifteen
and eight-fifteen and eight-fifteen again

while tables of statistics on the wall
update the news by calling on a roll
of tape, death gummed on death, and in the case
adjacent, an exhibit under glass

is glass itself: a shard the bomb slammed in
a woman’s arm at eight-fifteen, but some
three decades on—as if to make it plain
hope’s only as renewable as pain,

and as if all the unsung
debasements of the past may one day come
rising to the surface once again—
worked its filthy way out like a tongue.

(I’m not sure which book this is from, but her latest is: A Phone Call to the Future: New and Selected Poems)

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Published in: on June 15, 2009 at 8:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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