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 28 years old. After the war, Toge became a leader in the peace movement. He published a number of books opposing the atomic bombing and advocating peace. While hospitalized with tuberculosis at the National Hiroshima Sanatorium, he published the book A-bomb Poetry. When it was sent to the 1951 World Youth Peace Festival in Berlin as one of Japan’s representative works, A-bomb Poetry gained international acclaim. On March 10, 1953, Toge died at the National Hiroshima Sanatorium. He was 36 years old. This poem is from Hiroshima-Nagasaki: A Pictorial Record of the Atomic Destruction (1978).
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,
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
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?