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Peace Memorial Museum

The brain, intellect, rational part of a soul
protects us from pain;
puts up walls of reason that seals our hearts
to hurt.

Walking through the memorial to horror
called Peace Museum in Hiroshima,
reason, intellect, brain
wedged a space with facts
so that tears would not dare to flow.

Looking at the panorama of destruction
while a priced British narrator
recounted the terror in my ear,
the tape recorded, and those accents,
muted the torture
of numbers,
of degrees,
of death.

A part of my brain could register grief
but quickly intellect reminded my tears
that the tiny buildings left standing
on man-made earth,
surrounded by man-made mountains,
were similar to earth forms in museums everywhere;
one stands and looks at Egyptian, Roman
forms made by men
for just such viewing.

Looking up across that model of devastation,
My eyes saw the life-sized figures,
As the British voice says,
"of residents caught in the holocaust."

First, the thought
"but what a lurid sky - all red and orange,
not life-like at all;"
but then, the soul remembers,
that sky that day beneath that sun
was not lifelike at all
but filled with death.

The hair on the models,
for they are waxed humans,
hangs matted, singed
and their fingernails,
if you dare to look, appear to melt;
nails of the mother and of the child
softening in that heat that day beneath that sun.

The brain quickly challenges such wax,
but the soul recoils,
knowing it must have been so.
In other cases we see the lunch boxes,
hurriedly prepared by impatient mothers
who will never fill lunch boxes
for impatient children again.

We see the coins (fused), the roof tile (bubbled)
and the photographs we have put away
for thirty years.
Those burns,
those faces we will not face.

Always, a clipped voice in the left ear
explaining how many Fahrenheit to bubble tile,
fuse coins,
imprint patterns from a dress on a human made of flesh.
Always a clipped voice explaining
the horse, stuffed,
the root of the camphor tree, torn,
and always the brain, hurrying with facts
to seal the pain.
But the eye catches,
the ear hears,
blurred now though
by pain that will not stay;
the soul notices a student's lined notebook paper
with penciled numbers;
like one's own children's notes.

These notes,
(do not listen)
these notes,
(do not look)
these notes,
(avert your eyes)
are the careful listing of blood count.
These figures are the numbers of white cells growing
as a young woman, still a girl
recorded, for herself, the movement
of the sickness through her frame.

Penciled numbers
on a sheet of lined paper,
adding up the increase until her death.

A panorama with broken roofs,
a red-orange glare, the intellect could accept,
but notebook, paper, pencil
and the soul released the tears;
for one child out of "countless numbers"
as the guidebook says,
for one child,
and for all the others,
I wept.


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