Monday, 26 October 2009

Ready and waiting at the Bus Stop!

This week TFE has chosen a subject close to my heart. Before I write you my poem I would just like to write a little explanation.

I chose to listen to Penderecki's "Threnody for the victims of Hiroshima". I have heard it many times before and I always find it profoundly moving. It has aged well. In fact I think the whole Hiroshima episode has "aged well" - there can't be many people who haven't heard of it now and with all the publicity it has had over the years there can't be many who are not still appalled, horrified, - I can't think of words enough to describe the feeling. But I just wanted to show you another aspect.

My late husband, Dominic Rivron's father, was what used to be known as a Boy Soldier - he was recruited into the East Surrey Regiment in 1938 as a flautist in the band. For reasons I shall not go into here, he was almost immediately sent to Shanghai with his regiment, so that at this very young age he witnessed indescribable cruelty when the Japanese invaded China. For instance he saw the Nanking rebellion with all its awful happenings. Then in 1941 he was taken prisoner by the Japanese and for the rest of the war he lived in terrible conditions in the jungles of Thailand - and worked on the Kwai bridge and also the Death Railway.

When the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, and then shortly afterwards on Nagasaki, the war came to an end. At the time he was near to death with cerebral malaria. His discharge certificate cites malaria, pelagra, beri-beri, cholera, typhoid and a host of other reasons for his discharge. Immediately aid was flown in to his remote jungle camp he was airlifted to Bangalore in India to a specialist hospital, where he remained seriously ill for months. But he recovered.
He always said that the dropping of the bombs probably saved his life, because although we were winning the war anyway, the episode probably shortened the war by a few weeks - enough to save his life.

However, we were both members of CND at the time of the Aldermaston marches - and he was totally against nuclear weapons. He died of kidney cancer at the age of 66, having had a happy and healthy life up to the last year.

So - sorry about that digression - but wanted to tell you the background. Now here is my poem for the bus. It seems to me there is an inbuilt need to fight within men. Male animals do it - would that as a species we had the intelligence to reject it.


I am the man who,
at the Planners' Table,
unfolded the map -
its clean, sharp folds crackling in
the expectant air.
Mine the finger that
traced the line,
Kyoto, Tokyo, Yokohama;

I am the man in
enola gay
on the bright morning
in the cloudless sky.
Mine the finger that
pressed the button,
saw the
"supramundane mushroom cloud"
saw the bright light,
brighter than a thousand suns,
felt the heat and
the momentousness of
the occasion.

I was the man who,
standing the the square,
heard the plane,
saw it sparkling in the sunlight,
looked up at its beauty.
My shape,
my form,
I have left for you,
scorched into the stone.

I was the man,
skeletal and zombie-like,
feet infested with ulcers,
head in turmoil with malaria, who
lay in the jungle and knew
my flimsy fate would be
decided by others.

The noise, the bombs, the screams,
the slaughter.
The beauty of the day, the cloud,
the terrible brightness,
then the silence.

Then the apportioning of the blame.


Anonymous said...

Amazing story, and sadly I believe you are right about the male species and it's need to fight. Ego? Instinct? whatever... wish it were gone. Beautiful writing...

steven said...

hello weaver - a powerful story and i like the multiple perspectives in the poem. well-written. have a peaceful day in the dale. steven

Rachel Fox said...

It's hard for a poem to have to follow such a brilliant prose introduction. Those paragraphs about your first husband...they're just huge (if you know what I mean). The only thing I would change is that I would add the word 'some' in front of 'men' in the sentence that reads 'it seems to me there is an inbuilt need to fight within men'. I don't think all men have it. And do some women have it...more and more so possibly.


Titus said...

Beautiful piece of writing, Weaver.
As steven says, the multiple perspectives are a tremendous device to show the complexity of a single action which changed our world. The use of indivdual viewpoints make us feel, rather than reel with the enormity of it all.
And I like the contrast made, so finely, between Guernica and Hiroshima.

And thank you for the background, Weaver, I cannot begin to imagine what your first husband saw and endured.

alison said...

Such a remarkable story, which together with your poem is very moving to read

Elisabeth said...

My father never spoke openly about his war experience. When the introductory music to the television serial Combat crashed onto the screen, he changed channels. Like so many traumatised by war my father kept it to himself.

We need to talk more about war and its aftermath, only then can we get to a point of questioning its existence.

Your poem adds to such questioning. It is very beautiful and I thank you for sharing it.

Tess Kincaid said...

I love how you incorporated the subject of blame and the men involved. Excellent piece, Weaver.

Nothing has ever quite effected me so powerfully as my visit to the Hiroshima Memorial.

Leenie said...

Powerful story. Powerful

Loren said...

Moving piece.

I wish I'd read it before your explanation, though, to see if it would stand on its own as well.

At the very least, it's a example of how powerful "haibun" like poetry can be.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

The lessons of history are always more powerful when spoken by one who was there. I was riveted to your story. And your elegant poem was the perfect coda.

NanU said...

Your poem is so very different from the others I've been reading. I very much like your perspectives, coming at this event from all sides.
My great uncle too was in Asia at that time, taken prisoner by the Japanese, liberated at the edge of death after the bombs were dropped. Even in 1989 he was never far away from that experience.

swiss said...

great background story, oiked the poem. male animals? (hu)man animals surely and unfortunately

Gwil W said...

A lovely moving poem and a lovely moving write-up in the circumstances. Titus says something important about the bringing in of Guernica which is where in reality the whole business started; Guernica and the Treaty of Versailles combined to light the blue touch paper; the one giving confidence of prowess in the air, the other a 'reason' (as if reasons are needed).
ps- Weaver, rush to be Bard on the Run page and see the Martian Dust Devils before they disappear...amazing they are. Bottom picture. Looks like a tattoo.

Dr. Jeanne Iris said...

Weaver, Thank you for the moving background story. You might be interested in a novel written by a colleague of mine, Shouhua Qi, regarding Nanking, _When the Purple Mountain Burns: A Novel_ (English edition, classic and simplified Chinese editions, 2005).

Each of your stanzas, characterizing a man and his relationship with war is poignant.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely marvellous, your poem. I cannot write to prompts - well maybe I could if I gave myself the time, and I admire those who can. Much more skilled than my off-the-cuff poetry happenings.

Penny said...

A powerful story and equally powerful poemI have been to Hiroshima and as an Aussie who was a 5 year old when the bomb was dropped and who heard the stories on Hiroshima day year after year, it too was a powerful place, one to remember what happened on both sides,

Penny said...

A powerful story and equally powerful poemI have been to Hiroshima and as an Aussie who was a 5 year old when the bomb was dropped and who heard the stories on Hiroshima day year after year, it too was a powerful place, one to remember what happened on both sides,

Totalfeckineejit said...

Well Weaver that is the background to end all backgrounds.It's a great poem too, beyond that, in the confines of the written word and these crass little comment boxes, it's hard to now what to say.A hug would be nice.

Heather said...

Your poem is wonderful Weaver - probably the more so because of your first husband's experiences. So much horror and suffering - I couldn't tackle the subject and chose to write around the plan B option.

gleaner said...

Powerful poem and story.

Like Rachel, I don't think all men have it. Reminds me of the studies into aggression where there is that one very unique tribe of chimpanzees that never ever fight - hmmm, but I think they are facing extinction.

Funnily the word verification is is that the state of being without men??

Anonymous said...

so moving.
i don't seem to have words....

deb said...

one of my colleagues at the college where I teach is Japanese, we were talking about Hiroshima this week strangely and he said he learned in school that the bomb was dropped to justify all the resources that had been expended in its creation, that only by actually using it would all that use be seen to be warranted by the west... which made a strange kind of sense to me sadly... your story and your poetry gave me goosebumbs, thanks as always for sharing.

Arija said...

Well done my dear, akthough I cannot say i like it, it cuts straight to the bone. War, as you may have surmised, is anathema to me slaughter abhorrent and mankind's need to inflict pain on another a mystry.

Karen said...

Thank you for the background and for the brilliant poetic response to these horrors. The multiple points of view bring home the human aspects of war, something that is easy to overlook when we read a history book or hear the news.

My father, in Germany during the war, went through his picture albums and destroyed all photos of his time there a few years ago. He wouldn't say what prompted that, but he only talks about the funny things that happened to him and his buddies and the kindness of the German people in the countryside. I think the other is too painful for even memories.

Beautiful take on this. This poem will stick with me.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thank you for all your comments. I think Loren has a very good point when he says one would need to read the poem in isolation before making a decision as to whether it stands on its own. I do agree. Surely the job of the poet is to present his work with the words so well=chosen that the reader can read a multiplicity of meaning into them. Perhaps it would have been better had I just presented the poem - and I must say, reading through it, that had I done that I might well have written it differently.
Interesting too that there is a debate amongst you all as to whether men have this inbuilt instinct to fight (as do male animals) - I agree with Rachel that maybe I should have written "some" men but as I pointed out to her - unfortunately we never seem to elect the peace-loving types into positions of responsibility.
It was interesting to read all your comments and the experiences of your relations/friends etc. I should add that my late husband never held a grudge, rarely referred to any of it and managed to have a full and happy life in spite of his experiences.
As to TFE's comment - I am all for virtual hugs - it is things like that that make the world go round!
Have a lovely evening.

BT said...

Weaver, that story was so beautifully and sympathetically written and the following poem just wonderful. I have no criticism, I am in awe. How clever to write fro different perspectives. I do believe quite strongly that most men have the inbuilt urge to go to war. 'Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus' as the book says. Brilliantly done.

On a lighter note, as it's an unusual name, was your first husband in any way related to Roland Rivron, the comedian/presenter?

Dinesh chandra said...

what a poem written on hiroshima I was so young or born after the incident I can"nt say but I heard about the fight the H2Bomb .This poem illustrat the life of a particular war man of the time .
I m from India. I visit many time in Banglore the city.

God bless you .


Dinesh Chandra

Unknown said...

Hello Weaver,

An excellent and powerful poem. I think it would stand up on its own. Naturally, your own and your late husband's experience inform the poem. A "lovely" post altogether, Weaver.