author’s note;  *On August 6th, 1945, the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima , Japan. Three days later, the American B-29 found its primary target, Kokura, covered by clouds. The bomb was detonated on the city of Nagasaki instead.

Kyoto had been removed from the target list by Secretary of War Stimson because of its beauty and cultural significance. Tokyo was scheduled for destruction on August 19, but on August 15 Emperor Hirohito announced the capitulation of Japan.

Nazim Hikmet is the great Turkish poet who wrote “I come and stand at every door.”

The “sisters” of Hiroshima and Nagasaki speak. I wrote this poem as an act of witness — more so than other poems, though all poems are, against forgetting.

Hiroshima Mon Amour*

for Nazim Hikmet


Oh no. Oh yes.

Some are vaporized

that others may rest.

That day, the clouds

played lesser gods,

and a B-29,

American Wotan.

We are still whistling Dixie

in the cockpits of F-16s,

while the big boys deploy

the children machines

into targeted Gotterdammerung

like a line of thunderhead engines

rumbling to the end of the line.

(Kyoto speaks):

O my sisters! What can the lovely one say

as she stands in the sun in her tresses and lace?

Yes: In the company of rapists are cultivated men

who would not disfigure beauty. One spared me.

Yes: Before the smiling countenance of the sun

I stood, as bitter fire fell down from heaven

until I longed to throw myself over the bodies

of my spindly sisters upon the violated earth.

And all who did not shut their doors in the face of that day –

boys, graybeards, retired colonels and courtesans, became,

all became, sisters: mute, unmoveable, griefstruck

as oxygen fled from air.

August 19 (Tokyo speaks):

What is it to you

if I do not come and stand at every door

as my little sisters do?

Who is it that cannot see their ghosts?

Sister H., honored in all heavens

and all hells — the eldest, the first —

smooths her torn gray dress.

God has truly blessed


Sister N., forever condemned

to walk in a sister’s fiery shadow,

forever wrapped in sister-love

and the love of all who love the dead,

smooths the isotopes from her faded dress

and stands at your door.

Do you not see them there,

the two sloe-eyed girls?

Do you not have a door?

Do you not have eyes?

I come now to stand with them.

We will stand here forever, and longer,

with our sad eyes and black hearts,

like triplet invisible sunflowers

climbing the steps of the sun.

And you. What are you doing there

in your backyard with its brushed-metal grill,

its razor-wire, its fire, with your progeny

that speed over oceans, brighter than a million suns?


We forgive where there is nothing

We forgive where there is nothing

to forgive. We forget nothing

dead or alive or dead. We live,

a sisterhood of ashes

smearing love-characters

on doorsteps and pale skin.