The poem was written not long after the bombing took place and gives readers a truly horrific insight into what it was like in Hiroshima in the days after the bombing.
To add to the overall emotion of the poem, readers may be interested to know that the poet was only 16 years old when he wrote this piece.
Explore Sky of Hiroshima
‘Sky of Hiroshima’ by Sachiko Hayashi is a poignant poem narrated by a young girl who recounts the devastating aftermath of the atomic bombing.
In this poem, the young speaker describes the smell of burning flesh, the sight of swollen bodies and exposed organs, and the profound grief of losing her mother and sibling.
The poem portrays moments of resilience and tenderness amidst the destruction. In the end, the girl is left alone, contemplating the beauty of the sky amidst her profound loneliness.
Structure and Form
This means that many of the literary devices seen in this poem are only visible in the English translation. When analyzing this piece, one needs to consider what’s been lost since the words were translated.
The poem uses stanzas of varying lengths, some as short as two lines and others more like five or six lines long.
In this poem, the poet makes use of a few different literary devices. For example:
- Allusion: a reference to something outside the direct scope of the poem. For example, many allusions to the bombing of Hiroshima that are seen in this poem.
- Imagery: a particularly interesting description that should trigger the reader’s senses, for example, “was shining brilliantly on the Yahata River before us.”
- Enjambment: can be seen when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines one and two of stanza seven.
That night I slept in the open.
The next morning, I finally made it to the shelter,
but only my father was there.
-Mommy and You-chan died…
The august sun
was shining brilliantly on the Yahata River before us
oblivious to our weeping.
The opening lines of the poem immediately convey a sense of vulnerability and peril. The fact that the narrator slept in the open implies a lack of safety and protection. This sets the stage for the impending disaster, foreshadowing the unimaginable horrors that to be revealed in the following lines.
The mention of reaching a shelter the next morning suggests a glimmer of hope and the instinct to seek refuge. However, the heart-wrenching realization that only the narrator’s father is present hints at the devastating loss that has occurred.
These lines of the poem evoke a powerful contrast between the natural world and human suffering. The mention of the “august sun” suggests a beautiful and radiant day, highlighting the detachment of nature from the devastating human tragedy.
The imagery of the sun shining brilliantly on the Yahata River creates a vivid picture of a serene and idyllic scene. However, this juxtaposition with the narrator’s grief, expressed through the phrase “oblivious to our weeping,” highlights the profound disconnect between personal anguish and the natural world.
Stanzas Four and Five
The next day,
the smell of grilled fish.
The following lines bring more detail to the devastation. The imagery of the father with an empty candy box hanging down and the narrator carrying a hoe on her shoulder suggests their resourcefulness and determination to confront the ruins of Hiroshima.
The slow pace of their walk implies the weight of the tragedy and the emotional burden they’re contending with.
In the following lines, the poet delves into the gruesome aftermath of the atomic bombing. The description of the smell of burning flesh creates a visceral and haunting image, evoking the sheer horror and devastation inflicted upon the city.
The comparison between the smell of bodies being cremated and the smell of grilled fish is particularly striking. This juxtaposition of the familiar aroma of cooked food with the repugnant odor of human remains serves to heighten the sense of shock and dissonance.
Crossing the burnt iron bridge,
Daddy and I, staggering,
and we dig with quiet intent.
The sixth stanza of the poem is by far the longest. It is twenty-seven lines long and is filled with images that are hard to forget and painful to imagine. In the first lines of this section, the poet describes the crossing of the burnt iron bridge. It serves as a symbolic threshold into a landscape of further devastation.
The staggering movement of the narrator and her father underscores their physical and emotional exhaustion as they confront the increasingly grim reality. Plus, the sight of more corpses than the previous day reveals the ongoing toll of death and destruction.
The descriptions of the bodies further amplify the horrific imagery. The swollen bodies, with their internal organs laid bare and intestines whirling around, create a grotesque and disturbing scene. The inclusion of the dim sounds and the oozing darkish-yellow fluid from various orifices intensifies the senses and the disarray of the aftermath.
The lines continue on with their chilling depiction of the aftermath of the bombing, with the narrator’s attention turning to the familiar elements of her destroyed home.
The sight of the old stone wall and the remains of the house carries a bittersweet nostalgia, a poignant reminder of what was lost. The presence of a half-burnt kitchen knife floating in the water of the well serves as a symbolic relic of the past, while the iron pot and burnt remnants of the makeshift meal reflect disrupted daily routines.
The final lines of this long and painful stanza portray the resilience and resourcefulness of the narrator and her father. Despite their exhaustion, they engage in the physical labor of clearing the debris and uncovering fragments of their former life.
stuck with bits of cotton from the mattress.
The seventh stanza is as painful, if not more so, than the one that came before it. The lines describe the young narrator encountering her mother’s remains. The unbearable sorrow felt by both the narrator and her father begins to consume them.
The image of the narrator screaming and picking up bones emphasizes the overwhelming grief and despair they are experiencing. The bones are placed in a candy box, which serves as a somber container for the remnants of those lost. The rustling sounds they make as they are placed in the box further underscores the haunting nature of the scene.
The mention of the narrator’s little brother lying right beside their mother heightens the heart-wrenching nature of the loss. He is now depicted as little more than a skeleton, with his insides exposed and bits of cotton from the mattress sticking to him.
This imagery emphasizes the physical devastation inflicted by the bombing and reinforces the narrator’s sense of loss and devastation.
Stanzas Eight and Nine
___ “I want to die!”
Daddy cried out.
bathed in sunshine.
The next lines of the poem express deep anguish and emotional devastation as experienced by the narrator’s sorrowful father. Overwhelmed by grief, he expresses his desire to die, unable to bear the weight of the tragedy.
The next lines introduce a sense of hope or respite as a single life remains untouched and bathed in sunshine. This image serves as a stark contrast to the surrounding destruction, highlighting the power of nature’s endurance and the potential for renewal in even this completely devastated landscape.
Stanzas Ten and Eleven
I fetched some water in cracked tea cup
the food he did not want.
The following lines are still quite emotional as the narrator carries out small acts of care and their father’s effort to provide sustenance in the midst of the devastation.
Placing water in front of her brother’s remains reflects a gesture of reverence and remembrance while the father takes out the crackers, which represent their meager rations.
The next lines describe a deterioration in the father’s condition. The appearance of spots on his body indicates the onset of physical symptoms or illness potentially caused by radiation exposure.
Despite having little hope for survival, the father still feels a sense of pity, likely for his own suffering or the suffering of others.
Stanzas Twelve and Thirteen
___ “I’d love to eat some grapes,” he said.
and made juice.
The next two stanzas are quite short at only two and four lines apiece. The twelfth stanza captures a brief conversation between the narrator and her father, where the father expresses his desire for grapes.
This simple longing for a particular food item reflects a yearning for a sense of normalcy, pleasure, and perhaps a taste of something beyond the harsh realities of their situation. However, the narrator’s response indicates their inability to fulfill that desire, suggesting the scarcity and limitations they face.
The narrator’s action of squeezing cucumbers, adding sugar, and making juice in the following stanza is a creative attempt to fulfill her father’s desire for something refreshing and flavorful, despite not having access to grapes.
Daddy looked at me,
after all the tears had run out.
The second to last stanza of the poem describes an emotional interaction between the narrator and her father. Despite his weakened state, he looks at his daughter with a renewed sense of hope and expresses a desire to come back to life.
His laughter, tinged with the sound of crying, symbolizes the complex mix of emotions he experiences—both a flicker of joy and an underlying sadness.e H gazes at the empty sky and makes a remark about an impending storm. This metaphorical statement may signify a looming sense of danger, a metaphor for the ongoing hardships they face or a deeper sense of foreboding.
The father then takes a deep breath, collapses, and becomes motionless, suggesting his passing. The abruptness of this event adds to the emotional impact and captures the fragility of life in the aftermath of the bombing.
The stanza ends with a shift in time and the mention of being alone. This highlights the abrupt absence of her father and the deep void left behind. The description of her body without focus suggests a disoriented state, both physically and emotionally. The phrase “after all the tears had run out” suggests the extent of her grief and emotional exhaustion, as if she has shed all the tears she could possibly cry.
Staring at the river running in front of me,
the blue sky of Hiroshima.
The final lines of the poem describe the narrator’s gaze fixed upon the river that flows before her in the city of Hiroshima. As the narrator observes the river, she perceives something significant: the sight of the blue sky of Hiroshima, which is described as beautiful and clean.
The mention of the blue sky carries symbolic weight. It contrasts the devastation and sorrow that the poem has vividly depicted throughout. It serves as a powerful image of a brighter future, hinting at the possibility of healing and rebuilding in the aftermath of tragedy.
The main theme of this poem is the devastating impact of the Hiroshima bombing and its aftermath, including themes of loss, grief, resilience, and the enduring human spirit.
The purpose of this poem is to bear witness to the horrors of the Hiroshima bombing, to honor the memory of the victims, and to evoke empathy and understanding in the reader regarding the profound human suffering caused by war and its aftermath.
Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider reading some other
- ‘November’ by William Stafford – a heart-wrenching and important poem that was inspired by the WWII bombing of Hiroshima.
- ‘Let Us Be Midwives’ by Sadako Kurihara – is a powerful wartime poem that describes a few moments of despair and a few of hope in the aftermath of the atomic bombing.
- ‘The Measures Taken’ by Erich Fried – asks readers to consider their concepts of good, evil, and who deserves to live throughout the poem.