The Common Good

Mitsuyoshi Toge: 'How Could I Ever Forget That Flash'

Mitsuyoshi Toge, born in Hiroshima in 1917, was a Catholic and a poet. He was in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped on the city on August 6, 1945, when he was 24 years old. Toge died at the age of thirty-six. His first hand experience of the bomb, his passion for peace, and his realistic insight into the event made him a leading poet in Hiroshima. This poem is from Hiroshima-Nagasaki: A Pictorial Record of the Atomic Destruction (1978).

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How could I ever forget that flash of light!

In a moment, thirty thousand people ceased to be,

The cries of fifty thousand killed

At the bottom of crushing darkness;

Through yellow smoke whirling into light,

Buildings split, bridges collapsed,

Crowded trams burnt as they rolled about

Hiroshima , all full of boundless heaps of embers.

Soon after, skin dangling like rags;

With hands on breasts;

Treading upon the broken brains;

Wearing shreds of burn cloth round their loins;

There came numberless lines of the naked,

all crying.

Bodies on the parade ground, scattered like

jumbled stone images of Jizo;

Crowds in piles by the river banks,

loaded upon rafts fastened to the shore,

Turned by and by into corpses

under the scorching sun;

in the midst of flame

tossing against the evening sky,

Round about the street where mother and

brother were trapped alive under the fallen house

The fire-flood shifted on.

On beds of filth along the Armory floor,

Heaps, and God knew who they were …

Heaps of schoolgirls lying in refuse

Pot-bellied, one-eyed, with half their skin peeled

off bald.

The sun shone, and nothing moved

But the buzzing flies in the metal basins

Reeking with stagnant ordure.

How can I forget that stillness

Prevailing over the city of three hundred thousands?

Amidst that calm,

How can I forget the entreaties

Of departed wife and child

Through their orbs of eyes,

Cutting through our minds and souls?

For Hiroshima-Nagasaki memorial service resources, please go to Faithful Security (National Religious Partnership on the Nuclear Weapons Danger).

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