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Memorial

Second posting of blog from 5/26/2016

Today is 8 August 2023 – two days and 78 years since the United States dropped an atomic bomb over the city of Hiroshima and minus one day and 78 years since a second atomic bomb fell on the city of Nagasaki.  For anyone interested in details of these events six first person accounts can be found in war correspondent Jon Hersey’s iconic book Hiroshima, written in 1946, never out of print since then. Calling Hersey’s work gruesome would be an understatement. As it happened, his original statistics were later revised as follows for Hiroshima by the U.S. Department of Energy: “… 90,000 to 166,000 died from the bomb in a four-month period following the explosion and … further estimates that 237. 000 people were killed either directly or or indirectly by the bombs effects, including burns, radiation sickness, and cancer … for acres and acres the city was like a desert except for scattered piles of bricks and roof tile.”

Because I, a precocious child who read everything, insisted on reading this slim book from my parent’s library at age ten, my inner being was altered; the details within this book were forever seared into my soul. Tomorrow: the 78th anniversary of the tragedy that befell Nagasiki’s.

In 2016 I published the following piece as a blog post. It was titled

OBAMA WON’T APOLOGIZE FOR HIROSHIMA BUT I DO

Given the dangerous, sorrow-filled world of 2023,  it seems a good idea to publish it again.

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Following, extracted from a BBC report:

Barack Obama has become the first serving US president to visit Hiroshima since the World War Two nuclear attack. Mr Obama said the memory of 6 August 1945 must never fade, but did not apologize for the US attack – the world’s first nuclear bombing. Mr Obama spoke to two survivors and in an address called on nations to pursue a world without nuclear weapons. At least 140,000 people died in Hiroshima and another 74,000 three days later in a second bombing in Nagasaki.

Mr Obama first visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum before walking to the Peace Memorial Park, accompanied by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Both men stood in front of the eternal flame. Mr Obama laid a wreath first, followed by Mr Abe. “Death fell from the sky and the world was changed,” Mr Obama said in his address, noting that the bombing had shown that “mankind possessed the means to destroy itself”. Mr Obama said the memory of Hiroshima must never fade: “It allows us to fight complacency, fuels our moral imagination and allows us to change.” Of nuclear weapons, he said: “We must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.”

Mr Obama then spoke to two survivors, hugging 79-year-old Shigeaki Mori. “The president gestured as if he was going to give me a hug, so we hugged,” Mr Mori said. Mr Obama also talked to Sunao Tsuboi, 91. The image of President Obama hugging a survivor will resonate deeply with the Japanese public. Opinion polls show that the majority of people welcome this visit and most, it seems, do not mind either about the absence of an apology.

The deep symbolism is enough; the leader of the only country ever to have used an atomic weapon laying a wreath in a city that has become a monument to the perils of our nuclear age.But others will point out that, while his speech was long on lofty idealism, he remains the commander in chief of one of the world’s largest nuclear arsenals, one that he has approved billions of dollars to modernize.

Standing just a few rows away from the president, as he always does, an officer could be seen holding the briefcase containing the nuclear launch codes. Mr Obama had earlier flown into the nearby Iwakuni Marine Corp base nearby, after leaving the G7 summit. Mr Obama told service personnel at the base: “This is an opportunity to honour the memory of all who were lost during World War Two.”

Mr Obama praised the US-Japan alliance as “one of the strongest in the world”, with his visit “a testament to how even the most painful divides can be bridged – how our two nations, former adversaries, cannot just become partners, but become the best of friends and the strongest of allies”.

Many in the US believe the use of the nuclear bomb, though devastating, was right, because it forced Japan to surrender, bringing an end to World War Two. The daughter of one survivor, who was visiting the memorial on Friday, said the suffering had “carried on over the generations”.

“That is what I want President Obama to know,” Han Jeong-soon, 58, told the Associated Press news agency. “I want him to understand our sufferings.”

Seiki Sato, whose father was orphaned by the bomb, told the New York Times: “We Japanese did terrible, terrible things all over Asia. That is true. And we Japanese should say we are sorry because we are so ashamed, and we have not apologized sincerely to all these Asian countries. But the dropping of the atomic bomb was completely evil.”

Thank you for this visit Mr. Obama; also for your eloquence and good heart. I too honor the memory of all who suffered then. As an American implicated in my country’s actions, though, I go a step further, and DO apologize for the use of this bomb. (All bombs.) In my opinion is was wrong, is wrong, will always be wrong.image-8

 

Addendum to: Blog posting from 16 May 2017 on poet Naomi Replansky

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Today I read that poet Naomi Replansky died  on 7 January at age 104. Such a long long life. But, still, her passing shocks and leaves me with an ache.

Following (in part) lines from her poem THE OASIS –

I thought I held a fruit cupped in my hand

Its sweetness burst

And loosed its fruit. After long traveling.

After so long a thirst,

I asked myself: is this a drought-born dream?

It was no dream.

Farewell Naomi!**

(see obituary by Margalit Fox in 1/11/23 issue of  The New York Times

**https://www.nytimes.com › margalit-fox)

 

(FROM 16 MAY, 2017)

The rain poured down. The separate umbrellas my singer/songwriter friend and I held over our individual heads didn’t shield us from getting wet, wetter, wettest. We were in a part of town I rarely visit these days. Splashing across 109th Street from the subway at Central Park West we turned up Broadway where we passed corners that pierced all but forgotten memory clusters. 109th and Broadway: An amorous (bold) encounter in a walk-up when I was twenty from which I couldn’t escape fast enough. 110th Street and Broadway: One of my first jobs (age thirty-two) as enthusiastic apprentice/assistant to a documentary filmmaker (Phyllis Chinlund) in a large residential building on that corner. Each day I’d get my son off to New Lincoln School then dash for the 57th Street crosstown bus to Madison and transfer to the uptown Madison Avenue bus. Once, during a transit strike, I peddled my folding bike up and back home from my job working at a flatbed Steenbeck editing machine, trying to keep the various plates straight, reconstituting trims. 112th and Broadway: On a second floor, (I think it was there), a favorite dirt cheap Cuban-‘Chinese restaurant were one could sit for hours – eat, read, gab.

At 113th Street my wet friend and I were relieved to reach our destination and get out of the rain.

The occasion was a reading by the poet Naomi Raplansky. For some reason libraries still smell the same as they always have and are, as ever, slightly overheated. So it was at the Morningside Heights Library. Only a few folks including the poet and her long-time companion, Eva Kollish (scholar and author), had arrived. In the basement room we met up with another friend (Barbara Lapcek) who’d saved seats – second row center. I pealed off my soaked jacket, realizing I was wet under it too; stowed my umbrella. Small puddles of water began gathering beneath my chair. As it turned out, we’d been lucky, since attendees trickled, then poured, then squeezed in; standing room only. For the next forty-five minutes Naomi delivered about twenty-five poems with a few off-the-cuff words thrown in. She declaimed rather than recited her spare and careful compositions, some quite brief, like:

Gray Hairs

crowd out the black

Not one of them

brings me wisdom.

Wrinkles

provide no armor.

I still quiver

to anyone’s dart.

and

Jealousy

From five hundred miles away

jealousy can hear

the crumpling of a pillow

beneath two heads.

She reminded me of my Aunt Dorothy (see Lost and Found), both stalwart (loyal, hardworking, unwavering, tough, independent) woman who’d grown up in poverty, Dorothy in Brooklyn, Naomi in the Bronx during the Great Depression, children of eastern European Jewish immigrants. There was never enough and neither ever learned how to swim. In other words, Naomi could have been a relative; her manner, tone, concerns were comforting and familiar. With these familiarities came an ache for those long gone family members brimming with personality who’d been toughened by fate and would never again walk through my doorway carrying a paper bag full of still-warm bread.  Saying it all, Naomi’s poem, You Walked a Crooked Mile –

You walked a crooked mile

you smiled a crooked smile

you dropped a wandering tear

all in a crooked year

When there was one kiss

against ten curses

and one loaf

against ten hungry

and one hello

against ten goodbyes

the odds stalked

your crooked steps.

And you turned no corner

without heart-tightening

and against ten cannon

you had one fist

and against ten winters

you had one fire.

After the last poem ended, a standing ovation, then a cake with burning candles was brought as it was Naomi’s ninety-ninth birthday. She blew out the candles, her thick white hair billowing, a wide smile on her fully alive face.

Back outside the rain continued pouring down. Maybe even worse than before. My (also white) hair dripping wet, was plastered to my scalp.

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Collected Poems of Naomi Replansky is available on Amazon and elsewhere. The book and the poet are described as follows on the site: ‘Nominated for the National Book Award in 1952, Naomi Replansky’s first book Ring Song dazzled critics with its candor and freshness of language. Here at long last is the new and collected work of a lifetime by a writer hailed as “one of the most brilliant American poets” by George Oppen. Replansky is a poet whose verse combines the compression of Emily Dickinson, the passion of Anna Akhmatova, and the music of W.H. Auden. These poems, which Marie Ponsot calls “sixty years of a free woman’s song,” are Replansky’s hymns to the struggle for justice and equality and to the enduring beauty of life in our dangerous world.’

I strongly suggest reading her poetry and receiving the blessing Naomi has on offer.