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A novel in verse … and the writing thereof
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Not for the Japanese

said my father,

the only one I knew who’d think such a thing

much less think of saying it aloud.

Headlines two inches tall or more, and lots

and lots of words, but nothing that made sense.

—   Ten thousand dead—

—   From one bomb? not possible.

—   No, no, not ten, a hundred.

—   A hundred dead? Well, if it hit a big building, dead on . . .

—   No, a hundred thousand.

He dropped the paper on the shelf of magazines;

     now we all saw

the headlines, and the line beneath:

“Harnesses the energy of the sun—“

I thought of parachutes, reflectors, huge silver scoops

in the sky, dipping up the light, spinning it into thread

we’d weave and drop as nets on Tokyo—

—   Hiroshima. Big naval port. Kaboom.

—   Could it be a misprint? someone wondered, but the Times said

     the same, and the Sun, and another voice said,

—   No, I heard it on the radio.

 

Home in Sacramento for the day,

the week before the surrender, I walked downtown

with my father to buy bread, a ritual

devised, it struck me years later, to get

a noisy, early-waking child out of the house

on Saturdays, and let my mother sleep,

     one day at least.

Now both day and time were wrong, but we went

     just the same and found ourselves

standing with this crowd at the newsstand.

—      American know-how, said a guy in a porkpie hat.

—   It’ll be a while before they stick

               their necks out again, chuckled another.

—   Now that we’ve chopped them off

               at the knees? laughed a third.

—   Now make up your minds, knees or necks?

—   I’d say we got them coming and going,

               said the first, (and three days later, after Nagasaki,

               he seemed right enough.)

My father stared at the men, then turned away

and took my hand as though I were

     four years old again.

“Where will it end?” he asked the sky,

     “Where will it end?”

“It’s over, Dad, they’ll surrender now.”

“Oh, my daughter,” he said with a look

of such sweet pity that I blanched, but then

he smiled, a bit, drawing my hand up

to link my arm with his, and so we paced

Sacramento’s straight sidewalks past green lawns,

neat gardens; “Come on, Bindy, let’s get home.”

 

I could not imagine

what had happened,

     what we’d done, and so could not understand,

     no, neither it nor him;

the only information that got through was this:

     we’d won, we must have won. Ways and means

               were not my concern.

I wanted to get home to San Francisco

(and as that longing crystalized as thought, sudden shock

crystalized again: my parents’ house

     no longer felt like home)

back to my job and friends, and to the man

I’d not yet met, whom I would marry,

               come December.

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