Vol 59 No 4
On a photograph of the white shadow left by a
man annihilated by the atom bomb in Hiroshima
It was another morning, another morning.
A morning like any other, of dust and death.
A morning of war: raids, speeches, warnings.
In wartime, all mornings are alike.
You were crossing a bridge in Hiroshima,
A bridge of plain cement, a place without mystery.
Below, the grey river ran as always, going somewhere,
Metalled and moved by the early summer sun.
The sun, that cast your shadow clearly, a healthy black.
It was the shadow of a complete man, someone
With a life, a personality, a past: but
Moving through a present that could have no future.
What were you thinking? Were you feared, hated, loved?
Were you late for work? Sad or sick? Artist, student?
Photographer or newsman returning home after a night out?
What was your plan for the day? Who were you, shadow?
I do not know your name, your age, your blood type.
And now I shall never see your face, hear your voice.
No one will ever know your name, your age, your blood type.
And are there any left who remember your face, your voice?
Now, the name, the face, the voice no longer matter.
A plane drilled the blue, as they often did. The river ran.
Your shadow was black, then white. The flash was all
And nothing. You were not there to hear the rest.
Your shade . . . poor, forked human creature . . . fled
Like a mist of dew on morning glories. Your breath
Evaporated, taken away, lost soul, before
You even had time to scream. Your shade was white.
Is blacker than black,
Is more than a shade.
Is whiter than white.
Is blacker than night.
Blacker than black
Blacker than white,
Blacker than blast and blight,
Blacker than light.
Whiter than black,
Whiter than sight,
Black as the flash
Blacker than fright.
White as the bomb,
White as a scar,
Black as the womb,
Black as war.
Blacker than breath,
Blacker than cold.
Whiter than death,
Whiter than gold.
Is blacker than black,
Is more than a shade.
You vanished, and a whole world, a fragrance, a name
Vanished with you. A shade. It was death indeed,
Death in absence. . . . But you left behind you, in the black rain
Of ash, your own memorial, your own white shadow.
It stretched companionless across the road, until
Its head (hatless) was lost over the edge of the bridge.
Yours was the long shadow of early morning, another morning,
Another morning in early summer, when shadows are blackest.
The white shadow shows no feet. You were already a ghost.
(In Japan, they say, ghosts have no feet.). . . No arms.
Only the elementary fork, the primitive crotch,
And the torso, naked, alone, archaic. No hero's.
Who owns him? Was he your father? Your brother?
Your lover, was he? Your enemy, friend, classmate?
Was this white memory once your husband of flesh and blood ?
All I know is, he was a man, a human being like myself.
Questions are hard, but it is worse to remain silent.
Nor can we afford not to look. We must see all, and say all
To satisfy the dead who died with such indignity, the shades
That are watching us, white and speechless. We cannot look away.
You whose shadow once was black as soot,
Black the vivid black of all living shadows.. .
You whose shadow moved beside you everywhere
Like a favourite hound at heel, mysterious, silent.
You exchanged your shadow and your shape,
O Peter Schlemihl, for one no longer black,
For the white shadow that is waiting here
In all of us today, in all of us today.
We too have sold our shadows to the devil.
We have gained the whole world
But lost the fragrance of our immortal souls.
A race without shadows, we too are doomed.
Led by the ignorant and the mad, we live in worlds
Where black is white, and white is black,
Where leaders say that peace can not be found
Except in continued bombings of the helpless.
Where war is peace, and peace is war.
Where bombs are good, and people bad.
Where sleep is wake and eat is starve.
Where live is die. Where love is kill.
We look upon this calm, white monument
And see in it an image of ourselves.
Today, our shadows walk beside us still,
But they are no longer black, no longer black.
We are all white shadows, anonymous as yours.
No longer human, we cross bridges, walk in our shadows' snow.
Grey rivers are metalled and moved by the sun. It is
Another morning. And all our mornings are alike.
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