War and History Poetry posted March 19, 2017

This work has reached the exceptional level
Collaborative Linked Tanka Poetry Writing

Atomic Renga

by Sis Cat

Named after Mama,
her newborn little boy
is The Bomb.
With God as co-pilot,
our world changes forever.

Man-made sun
as empire's sun sets.
Sad shadows cast on white walls--
winter settles on a new world.

Fire breathing dragon
flames over Nagasaki--
vengeance unleashed.
I seek soothing, safe solace
in the cool Urakami.

Orchard near Hiroshima
ablaze in August--
cherry trees wither.
The sun seems hotter today
in Japan's shadeless cities.

the gift that keeps on giving.
No returns, please.
One lonely man limps along,
unhappy with his purchase.

Kimono's pattern
branded into my skin--
forever wardrobe.
Colorful weaves emblazoned
on my heart, body, and soul.

Lanterns on the water
parade past Atomic Dome--
all is still.
Sad sobs of survivors
breathe life into bobbing flames.

Poem of the Month contest entry


Named after Mama: Enola Gay, the American plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, was named after the pilot's mother.

her newborn little boy: The bomb Enola Gay dropped was code-named Little Boy.

Sad shadows cast on white walls--: the blasts vaporized people, leaving shadows on walls.

in the cool Urakami: survivors of the Nagasaki blast of August 9, 1945 bathed in the Urakami River to cool their burned skin.

parade past Atomic Dome--on the anniversary of the bombing, mourners and survivors place paper lanterns in the Motoyasu River in front of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, a blasted dome.

Renga: a form of Japanese collaborative poetry in which two people take turns writing linked stanzas, creating a series of tankas. Haiku originated from the first three lines. In Gypsy's Tanka Class, she assigned her students the task of writing a seven-stanza renga. My partner, Dean Kuch, proposed the subject of the atomic blasts on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Coincidentally, I had just been thinking about the subject as it relates to my mother's experience as a papergirl at the end of World War II.

The process of writing a renga with a partner is like creating jazz. Dean would suggest a line and then I would reply, or vice versa. We collaborated intuitively and spontaneously, like musicians using words instead of notes. We bounced images and words off of one another, like ping pong balls dropped in a room full of mousetraps. We felt invigorated creating poetry the way the Japanese enjoyed and created it.

I thank our Tanka instructor, Gypsy, and my partner in this collaboration, Dean Kuch.

The image is the shadow of a girl vaporized while playing jump rope in Hiroshima.

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