Red – a poem

                For Hiroshima

I woke up to

a deformed sky

doused with the sunrise

the warmth lingered on my skin

the cold flame

chilled me to the bone.


I looked out the window

to see a blinding red

coming closer

I wondered

what the divine wind saw

coming closer

cherry blossom farewell

send the sinners home

to mothers

when the white crane

was shot out of the endless blue sky.

We were afraid of red

afraid of the mongrel banner they carried

afraid of the dishonor of fallen Berlin

of eternal winter that will cut us down

like a hysterical, incumbent plague

but we didn’t know

another red

possessor of indescribable beauty

unfathomable destruction

if only we knew.

I saw fragments of people

hovering between life and death

I saw human canvas

painted with black


bits and pieces of the charred human suit

fell to the burning ground

revealing everything underneath

every thought

every hope

every dream

every love

every loss

every hurt

no longer protected by the melting mask

enveloped by the never-ending fire

it was beautiful

like a distant star dying

like cancer under a microscope

a dance of red, grey and flesh.


I closed my eyes

and saw nothing

but felt

felt the screams of skeletons reduced to dust

felt the skin ripping off callous working hands

felt the radiation stabbing unborn foetus

felt the future wrestled out of helpless grip

I felt everything

turned to nothing.

I searched

for my father

for my mother

for my little brother

for my school

for my skirt

for the tree in our backyard

where the nightingale hided

but all I could find

among the flame of hell

among meandering lost souls

among the ruins of our holy war

only ashes

scattered by the gentle wind

into the unyielding rivers of Hiroshima

into the scalding earth of our home

into the mushroom cloud in the red sky

I wondered

how long she waited.

Now I’m breathing in

these ashes

of homes, of schools, of streets,

these ashes

of flesh, of blood, of bones

these ashes

of the cruel bomb

tearing my lungs to scraps

slice me open

and display me like a war trophy

put my head on a stake

and leave my eyes wide open

I’m breathing in

these ashes

of death




I’m with you

in our search

in our loss

in our grief

I’m with you

in our agony

in our pain

in our wounds that rip the body apart

like claws of a beast

kept growing

no matter how much we tried

to forget

I’m with you

in our ignorance

in our isolation

when the scars felt too real

and the voices became too loud

I’m with you

in the tear-stained bandages

in the handful of pills

in the endless halls of hospitals after hospitals

where we were convicted of a crime

we didn’t commit

but the jury was merciless

and we were given a slip of paper

sentencing us to death

and there was no appeal

but a thousand cranes

little Sadako was innocent.

I hate America

I hate America

I hate America

I hate America

but the loved ones are lost.

in the office of D.C.

under the stars and stripes

under the pressure to bring the boys home

under the insatiable thirst for revenge

under the adrenaline of plutonium bombs

under the intense gaze of the USSR

Truman had started the journey to imminent desolation

with that 50-kiloton blast

he can’t turn back

can’t give back what is gone.

The things I kept

mother’s hair

a left shoe with a mended hole

a book burnt brown

a picture of a happier past that won’t come back

a hatred

a regret

a sorrow.

Now the pain is nothing

but a dull ache

the scars are nothing

but a reminder

the voices are nothing

but quiet whispers

the war is nothing

but history

the red sky is nothing

but sunrise.

still the fire

burns cold


I wondered

how long I waited.

Hiroshima, Tokyo, Saigon, Hanoi, March 15-16, 2014

Author’s note: A little experimentation with stream of consciousness, and putting everything I have learnt throughout the last three months living in Hiroshima into words. I came to this city with naïve opinions and assumptions, and they have been turned upside down and rightside up again. Did my moral values change? Maybe. Am I still confused? You bet I am. But hey, it’s all a learning curve. In related news, I finished this poem in the middle of the night in a really sketchy, run-down airport while being bitten by mosquitoes and sweating from the heat of Southern Vietnam. Fun times.


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