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Published by jack elliot



At 10.30 the siren sounded,
at 11 o’clock the all-clear.
Sticking a needle into a patient,
I heard a drone
as the plane, lost in the cloud,
dropped her baby.

It fell silently
one and a half miles from its target.
It fell for 40 seconds,
and in that 40 seconds,
every move that people made
became a choice between life and death.

The buildings turned red.
Electricity poles bloomed like matches,
trees like torches.
Three kinds of colour,
black, yellow and scarlet,
loomed over the people,
who scattered like ants.
An ocean of fire
A sky of smoke.

Then the people started coming up the hill.
Naked, ash-white,
groaning from deep inside,
their faces like masks.
Behind these ghosts
walked corpses burned black.
Medicines, needles, and bandages burned,
as I walked on cancer, barefoot.

A mother and child, naked, drowned,
locked in each others arms, floated downstream,
still connected by the chord:
they were the lucky ones.
We saved many lives that day,
But then, one by one,
The people we had saved
Began dying.

The charred and wounded were gathered in flat carts
like fish to market.
Walking among the victims
of this mysterious plague,
I felt insensible, lifeless,
like a ghost myself.
A soldier passed the groups of dead and dying:
“Shame on you! You’re a doctor!
Why don’t you help them? Help them!”
“It is you that did this”, I replied.

(After an eyewitness account by Dr Tatsuichiro Akizuki)

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