Sky of Hiroshima

Sachiko Hayashi

‘Sky of Hiroshima’ by Sachiko Hayashi is a painfully memorable poem about the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing as experienced by a teenager. 

Sachiko Hayashi

Nationality: Japanese

Sachiko Hayashi, a relatively obscure Japanese poet, who focused on the Second World War.

She gained recognition for her poignant composition, "Sky of Hiroshima."

Key Poem Information

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Central Message: Humanity endures despite horrific events like the Hiroshima bombing

Themes: Death, Nature, Recovery

Speaker: The poet

Emotions Evoked: Courage, Sadness

Poetic Form: Free Verse

Time Period: 20th Century

This is a truly painful poem to read, one that skillfully mixes emotion with a contemplative description of what Hiroshima looked like after the bombing.

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.


‘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 

‘Sky of Hiroshima’ by Sachiko Hayashi is a free verse narrative poem that was originally written in Japanese after the bombing of Hiroshima. The poet’s words were later translated into English. 

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. 

Literary Devices

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.

Detailed Analysis 

Stanzas One-Three 

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.

Stanza Six 

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. 

Stanza Seven


Mommy’s bone.



lay exposed,

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.

Stanza Fourteen 

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.

Hiroshima Bomb Dome Memorial
The Hiroshima Bomb Dome Memorial in modern-day Hiroshima

Stanza Fifteen 

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.


What is the main theme of this poem? 

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.

What is the tone of this poem? 

The tone of this poem is somber, melancholic, and reflective, conveying the deep emotions and the weight of the tragedy experienced by the narrator.

What is the purpose of this poem? 

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.

What kind of poem is ‘Skies of Hiroshima?’ 

This poem can be classified as a narrative or confessional poem, as it presents a personal account of the narrator’s experiences and emotions in the aftermath of the bombing, capturing the impact on their lives and their surroundings.

Similar Poetry 

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. 

Poetry+ Review Corner

Sky of Hiroshima

Enhance your understanding of the poem's key elements with our exclusive review and critical analysis. Join Poetry+ to unlock this valuable content.
Sachiko Hayashi (poems)

Sachiko Hayashi

Sachiko Hayashi is a mostly unknown poet of the Second World War who is known for writing one poem, 'Sky of Hiroshima,' about the bombing of Hiroshima and the immediate aftermath. The poet's words in this piece are incredibly moving, so much so that it should be considered one of the best poems on the topic.
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20th Century

This relatively unknown poem exemplifies some of the themes and styles that were prevalent in 20th-century poetry. It captures the aftermath of a devastating event with emotional depth and personal reflection. The poem's raw portrayal of the human experience reflects the shift toward introspection and subjective perspectives found in modern poetry
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This poem does not strictly adhere to traditional Japanese poetic forms, but it carries elements of Japanese poetry's emotional depth and reflects a powerful event that happened in Japan. This poem is not nearly as well-known as other Japanese poems, as well, something that impacts its overall effectiveness.
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Death fills the poem as the narrator confronts the loss of loved ones and witnesses the gruesome aftermath of the bombing. The poem explores the profound impact of death on individuals and society, portraying the harrowing reality of mortality.
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Nature serves as a backdrop to the tragedy depicted in the poem. The descriptions of the river and the sky highlight the contrasting beauty and purity that remain despite the destruction. Nature acts as a source of solace and a reminder of the resilience of life, even in the face of immense suffering.
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Though the poem focuses on the devastation caused by the bombing, it also touches upon the theme of recovery. It hints at the possibility of healing and rebuilding, symbolized by the blue sky of Hiroshima. The poem suggests that, despite the immense challenges, resilience and renewal are integral parts of the human spirit.
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Amidst the overwhelming sadness, the poem also portrays acts of courage. The narrator and her father demonstrate resilience and determination as they navigate the ruins of Hiroshima. Their ability to confront the horrors and continue their search for loved ones exemplifies the courage found in the face of adversity.
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The poem is permeated by a pervasive sense of sadness and despair. It explores the depths of human suffering and the emotional toll of loss and devastation. The somber tone and poignant imagery evoke a profound sense of melancholy, capturing the weight of grief and the emotional struggles faced by the narrator.
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Death of a Loved One

The poem explores the deep anguish and sorrow experienced by the narrator due to the death of loved ones. It vividly portrays the emotional aftermath of losing family members, particularly the poignant scene of the narrator handling her mother's bone.
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Life Struggles

The poem delves into the struggles of life in the aftermath of the bombing. It portrays the physical and emotional challenges faced by the narrator and her father as they navigate the ruins, confronts death, and search for a sense of normalcy.
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Loss is a central theme in the poem, as the narrator mourns the death of loved ones and grapples with the destruction of her home and the world she knew. The poem explores the profound emotional and psychological impact of loss, capturing the emptiness and grief that accompanies the absence of those who are no longer there.
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World War Two (WWII)

This poem is deeply rooted in the context of World War II. It presents a personal perspective on the Hiroshima bombing and its aftermath, highlighting the immense human suffering caused by the war. The poem serves as a poignant reminder of the devastating impact of global conflicts on individuals and communities.
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Free Verse

This poem is written in free verse, meaning that it lacks a consistent rhyme scheme or meter. This form allows the poet to convey raw emotions and personal experiences in an unstructured manner, offering flexibility in expression. Free verse enhances the poem's authenticity and reinforces the personal narrative style.
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Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.

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