Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Sunday, September 14, 2008

History Lesson

I am two years old when the bomb is dropped
on Hiroshima, three days later on Nagasaki.
105,000 Japanese civilians die.
Buildings pop and flame
like white flowers splintered in a hot wind.
People flee to a nearby canal.
Coats catch fire as they run.
They cannot see
for the rain of ash.
Someone’s watch is stepped on,
forever frozen in my memory.

After the war, faces without lips
Turn to the camera
so we can see
what has been wrought.

In my dreams I watch again the jagged film:
two men smile for the camera,
sitting in the cockpit of a silver plane,
and the bomb falls down through clouds
to become a ball of fire.

It is August 1949.
The Russians test their first atomic bomb.
I am in first grade. We bow our heads and
put our hands behind our necks to protect them.
I do not believe that rolling into a gutter
will save me from the billowing mushroom cloud.

I am seventeen. Two marines visit
my high school English class.
They point to a map taped on the blackboard.
They say you do not know what is coming,
Vietnam, 1961.

Today, September 11, 2008,I remember two planes
crashing into twin towers, and a third plane
head first in a Pennsylvania field.

So many deaths. So many memorials.
So many wars I do not understand.


This poem came from this last week of thinking about September 11, world terrorism. I was off line this last week making a move to Vancouver in Washington, and now am living in this lovely apartment overlooking a small garden, just off Highway 205 and the bridge over the Columbia River with Mt. Hood floating in a brilliant blue sky.