So far this blog has dealt with war quite a bit
Here is a poem that deals with war from the woman's point of view; quite distinct from the war poems I've given you so far: the main character is a woman, she's Japanese, a survivor of the Hiroshima atom-bomb attack, a religious person, a woman of both faith and hope
50 Years Later, A Woman Recalls"Mother, may we please open that tin?"
— based on a story in National
Geographic (August 1995).
four-year-old Akiko asked before breakfast.
"No, dear, we must save the tangerines,"
Shima sighed. "Akiko, you know we're keeping
our canned food in case the bombers attack.
You've asked May we please open that tin?
every morning for a week." Akiko grinned
and slipped into Shima's open arms for a quick
embrace, "Yes, we must save the tangerines."
They turned to slice radish leaves, stir soybeans.
Above, Enola Gay, Little Boy. Rice cooking.
Some mother's son says, "Please open the bomb
bay doors." Their home implodes. Shima and
her three other daughters never find Akiko.
Since then, No, we must save the tangerines
has resounded each morning in Shima's mind.
Daily, she recalls Hiroshima, Nagasaki —
kneels at her bedroom altar, offers an open tin
of tangerines. To save lost Akiko. Save Japan.
— Vince Gotera, Crab Orchard Review (1998).
Also appeared in Ghost Wars (2003).
This poem, as you can no doubt intuit from the epigraph, is based on a true story. There is an actual woman named Shima, living in 1995, who tries symbolically each morning to fulfill her dead daughter's last wish. There is a quiet, sublimated horror here that matches, and perhaps overshadows, other true stories about horribly burned people making their way down to the river, seeking coolness and a quenching of their terrible thirst, only to find that haven choked with dead bodies. We can only imagine the throat-catching, existential anguish that Shima lives through in not finding Akiko — an anguish that is with her still today.
The focus, obviously, is on mothering, on traditionally woman-oriented topics, the opening kitchen scene, the preparing of breakfast, the sweet conversation between two females, mother and daughter. The mention of "Enola Gay" and "Little Boy" are meant to be thematic here. "Enola Gay" is the name of the bomber pilot's mother, ironically enough, and "Little Boy" is the name given to this specific bomb; together the two names imply a kind of distortion of the poem's mother/child theme. And, if we think in Freudian fashion here, the B-29 births the "little boy" through its bomb-bay birth canal. I try to clinch the askew thematics by calling the disembodied bombardier "some mother's son" and having him speak in such a polite way, as taught him by his mother.
In terms of poetic technique, this is a villanelle
The a and b rhymes are also radically altered. The a rhyming sound is basically the consonant /n/
Obviously (at least I hope it's obvious) this poem is an antiwar poem, one that highlights the horrors of war in the twentieth century: wholesale death dispensed antiseptically and distantly by people who only push a button and don't come face to face with the havoc and terror they have wrought. I hope it's equally obvious that I mean for this poem to be a symbol as well of the possibility that words, especially when used as/with art, can stop wars. Let's cling to that hope, friends.