At second dawn,
the fat man greets 
us, grinning in 
his mushroom cloud,
golden hell of light
and power, unleashed
at Nagasaki.

The Renaissance is over.
A shade is pulled.
Voltaire is put to bed.
Spinoza, Paine, Rousseau --
all join Jefferson 
in sleep.  And we,
enlightened by irrelevance,
wander, in the wake
of Nagasaki.

The sleepwalkers return
and wake to find
the awful amber light
piercing lying blinds.
With half-closed eyes
we see ourselves
through the looking glass
of Nagasaki: 
dead animals 
with vacant bodies.

Our paws rub dreams
from unbelieving eyes --
incoherent dreams
of life and progress.
Vive la liberté,
and Standard Oil!
Better things for better...
Dreams! All
our favorite dreams
seem ludicrous
mirages in the light
of Nagasaki.

Dante descends
the easy path
into the inferno. (God!
It's hot this morning!).
We chat of death
and read the comics.
A cartoon Me
is captured in
a cup of tea
from Nagasaki.

It's now past noon
and there is laughter when
I try to pierce my heart
with a tablespoon.


But our companion
leads me out
to view the world
atop a hill of rock.
And there a naked tree
against the summer sky
tells me that even I 
can try to live
after Nagasaki.

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* Author's note: This is a revised version of a poem that was first published
, the magazine of the Methodist Student Movement, 
volume 22/7 (April 1962) p. 36.
The "fat man" mentioned in the first stanza of this re-edited version
is the U.S. government's code name
for the plutonium fission bomb
dropped on Nagasaki.
For photos of this bomb & an eye-witness account of the bombing

Image credits: all photos used above are in the public domain.
Black & white photos were taken by Yosuke Yamahata on 10 August 1945,
the day after the bombing of Nagasaki
and have been released for non-commercial educational use.
The color photo is from U.S. government files of a later test explosion. 
For a more extensive on-line exhibit of Yamahata's photos
see Remembering Nagasaki
a 50th anniversary commemoration
created by the Exploratorium, the first museum in cyber-space. 

Collected Poems
Mahlon H Smith

copyright © 2005
all rights reserved