“Fuck me, honey, fuck me, please,” Shirley
Asked, more than squirming underneath me
In the park, drunk, as I was drunk, both
Celebrating, if getting drunk fast
Is what you do when a war ends, not aware
At all of what two atomic bombs had done
To Hiroshima, Nagasaki, strange names only
I wanted to, but didn’t dare.
The whole town was dancing in that park, all
Drunk, too, but they still had eyes, and I
Still had my own eyes, so couldn’t, didn’t.
Shirley dropped me a week later, wouldn’t
Come to the phone. I guessed it was because
Her boy-friend was coming home from the Navy.
But some of her lovely honey still sticks on me
Drips, saying I made a mistake in the park
That night, in the welcoming exulting August
Grass, green, furry, warm, as Shirley was,
Not yet know “we won the war” by dumping
Fast sizzling, printable death (with echoes
Sounding still) on places packed with people,
And so easily, almost casually,
as the loud folks
In the park would have glazed on Shirley
And me, a couple of kids, doing what we didn’t.
Nothing to see.
Shirley and I were as torrid
And young as those bombs, but their flash was aimed.
(8/15/45 – 2/1/94)
from Touch: Poems
Commentary: As with many of my poems, this one came from sleep. I awoke one morning hearing the voice of the first line loud and clear, a voice I had not heard for nearly fifty years, but authentic, it was Shirley’s voice, indeed. And it cast me back to what had happened (or didn’t) on August 15th, 1945.
And that made me need to recapture the whole meaning of what “we won the war” meant in its whole. Kids like Shirley and me – and I think everyone else in the park regardless of age – did not know what those two atomic bombs had done, we couldn’t have. Yet in time we realized what monstrous attacks had done in our name. Guiltless, in one sense, we are all guilty, and that black hand on our shoulders insists that nothing like that should happen again.