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Misasa Bridge

On the 79th anniversary

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It is mid-afternoon and the children have decided
to walk together down to the bridge.
They are being naughty. Their parents will be angry
because no one has asked permission to go to the river.
But the mothers and fathers aren’t here. Where are they?
The children are hot and tired, and the waters
of the river will be so nice to play in.
They are naughty. They’re not wearing any clothes!
Their clothes have been burned away. 
The boys and girls, in small groups and large,
along with a few stragglers, are heading naked
to the bridge. They will get in trouble for sure!
But the water will feel so good under the boiling sky.
They enter it quietly—no yelling, no splashing! 
It seems they are finally learning to behave.
Now the river takes them like a mother, bearing them
under, to the cool darkness, as more children
who should be at school, or in the hills
where it’s safe, drift out to join them. Far away
the great plane touches down before a crowd
on Tinian Island. Now here’s the crew. There is cheering,
the flashbulbs pop. Now here’s the pilot himself!
Someone drapes a medal—the Distinguished Flying Cross—
around his neck. It’s one of the top medals you can get.
There are handshakes and cigars as the naked children
make their way down from Misasa Bridge, slowly, 
like old people, and enter the cooling waters.

—from Central Air, available on Amazon.

“I visited this site in Hiroshima in 1980 and have never stopped thinking about it.”

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