Saturday, August 06, 2005

A Thousand Cranes

The sky was blue on the morning of August 6, 1945 when, suddenly, there was a blinding, searing flash of light, which cast a bluish haze over everything in sight. That was followed by a thunderous, earsplitting blast that shook the earth, and seemed to penetrate to the marrow of my bones.

An immense fireball crackled as it burned. Hellish orange flames raged, and a pillar of fire rose to the skies with terrifying momentum. It was an atomic bomb, and it claimed hundreds of thousands of precious lives.

Why do humans wage war after senseless, cruel war?

Unless wars cease, and nuclear weapons are eliminated, the Earth will be destroyed.

I hope and pray for world peace, to which the entire human race aspires. The attainment of a lasting peace is the very least we can do to honor the memories of the victims of war, and to fulfill our responsibility to our children.

Yasuhiko Taketa

The following is written for the Hiroshima Day Event,
Austin, TX 8/6/05/

this is our cry
this is our prayer
peace in the world

(Sadako's prayer)

The world I was born into writhed in war and then exploded when an atomic bomb my countrymen nick-named "Little boy" annihilated Hiroshima. At 8:15 am, August 6, 1945 a city was vaporized. Survivors were wet-shrouded in radiation. At 11:02 am, August 9, 150,000 people in Nagasaki were vaporized. The urban landscape for 6.7 million square meters disappeared. How did babies, civilians, school children become the enemy?

How vast a threat Japanese babies must have been that vaporizing them could be the penultimate act in a "good" war.

I grew up in peace time - a car in every garage, America the Beautiful, alongside Lake Michigan. But that was after my brother caught wind of Hiroshima while he played alongside the creek in Pennsylvania, baby face turned to a radiant sky. Mother used to blame herself, saying if she'd given my brother more orange juice he wouldn't have died of Leukemia, the atomic bomb disease. Later Susan Lee showed me a map of radiation winds flowing through the woods where I was born, where my older brother played. How did our own babies, forests, creeks become the enemy?

I've been asked to tell the story of Sadako and the Thousand Cranes. She was two years old when "Little Boy" annihilated Hiroshima, ten years old when she collapsed at a track event and was diagnosed with the Atomic bomb disease. Legend gives to origami cranes the power to heal. The story says if you make a thousand paper cranes, illness will fall away, life will be long and happy. She was twelve years old when she died, after folding 664 cranes. Schoolmates folded 356 more and her spirit continues to have a long life in the memories of people who visit Hiroshima Peace Park every year on August 6. They bring paper cranes and speak her prayer -

this is our cry
this is our prayer
peace in the world

When I moved to Austin, Texas in 1971, I found Barton Springs and the Japanese Garden on the far side of Zilker Park. After swimming I often went to the garden to write in my journal, to cross The Bridge to Walk Over the Moon, where one was invited to wash away the troubles of the world, to be restored. Often I met a Japanese gardener along the winding paths, planting, pruning, weeding, bending to the earth. Always he greeted me, smiled and then turned back to work. One day he found me in the Tea House alongside the dedication plaque to the garden and told me he had given this garden to the city so that we would never forget the devastation of the Atomic bomb, so we would always work for peace.

He said he was Isamu Taniguchi.

. . .When a man, with such a pure appreciation in his peaceful mind, tries to compose with stones, grass and water in order to create one unified beauty - the formation is called a "garden." In this context, the garden is the embodiment of the peaceful coexistence of all the elements of nature.

. . . It has been my wish that through the construction of this visible garden, I might provide a symbol of universal peace. By observing the genuine peaceful nature of the garden, I believe that we should be able to knock on the door of our conscience, which once was obliged to be the slave of the animal nature in man rather than of the humanity which resides on the other side of his heart.

. . . As an Oriental, I have come through the turmoil of the racial problems in the United States during the last half of a century. Twenty-five years have passed since World War II, and yet we see the harsh realities such as the injuries caused by radio-activity which cannot be erased. Is now not the time that all mankind should, in retrospect of our past, be reborn from the beast's nature - that yoke which has been our burden for several million years since the beginning of mankind in pre-history?

Is now not the time when man may evolve from the beast-nature toward the realm of true humanity? (from The Spirit of the Garden)

So today, as the world we were born into reels and staggers into ever more relentless cycles of belligerence let us take a moment to pray for peace, to vow that babies and their parents are not the enemy, now or ever, to renew our commitment to justice and humanity knowing that by speaking the name of a thing it becomes possible.

Let us stand in a Peace Grove and speak Sadako's Prayer:

this is our cry
this is our prayer
peace in the world

© Susan Bright, written for Hiroshima Day Event,
Austin, TX 8/6/05/

Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-fifty books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.

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Blogger oZ said...

There are events today at the garden, one at 2:00 and another at 6:30.

9:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I moved to Austin in 1961 and I did not know the purpose and spirit behind Tanaguchi's gift.
Thank you for adding to my appreciation of spirit and place here in Austin. Hope I see you there...

10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OZ, this blog is becoming more and more beautiful and more and more an important part of my information network.

Thanks. MS

2:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you and Susan Bright for this beautifully crafted reminder of this tragic day so many years ago.

The tragedy is that we have yet to learn the lesson that peace is the only way. The powerful image brings home the point.

2:08 PM  

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