After the bomb

A haibun for the d’Verse prompt –
“Let us commemorate Hiroshima Day with our own poetry! This week, I want you to write a haibun that states or alludes to either the Hiroshima attack, or one of the themes of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony, such as peace, the abolition of nuclear weapons, or the horror of nuclear war.”

Once, when I worked in a regional art gallery a curator came from the Australian War Memorial to help us hang an exhibition of photographs by Australian war photographers.

For days the gallery space was filled with large crates that had to be carefully unscrewed before the photographs could be taken out.   The photographs were then placed around the wall in preparation for the technicians to hang them.    Using a scissor lift they were lifted into position and hung on chains.   The measurement from the base of the frame to the floor was precise.   It had to be the same for every photograph.  Once they were hung the placards describing the photographs were arranged with similar precision before the crates, wires and tools on the gallery floor were cleared away.

It was only then that we could garner the full impact of the exhibition.   After all the busyness the silence of the gallery before it was open to the public was empty – cavernous.   I walked around the exhibition with one of the technicians.   Some of the works were familiar to us through reproductions, others not so.   Each photograph demanded an emotional response and the technician and I were soon lost in our own private thoughts.   Our progress around the gallery became a solitary musing as certain photos slowed our walk to a crawl and others forced us to stand stock still in shock.

I caught up with her in the foyer where the curator had placed the largest photograph.   The technician glanced up as I approached and silently indicated the placard to the side of the photograph.   “Hiroshima after the bomb” I read.  Without speaking I followed the technician’s eyes to the image itself.   There, in subtle tones of grey, black and white I saw a vast flat landscape filled with debris.  It took a moment before I realized what I was looking at was an entire city reduced to matchsticks.

Grey silence,
dust settles on the past
– nothing remains

– photograph by Allan George Cuthbert, in the collection of the Australian War Memorial

35 thoughts on “After the bomb

      1. I’m sure….as some passages from survivor’s stories telling of the moments after the bomb was dropped had on me, when we were read them at school ….I must have been about 11years old

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      2. No, no…I didn’t do the reading…it was a history lesson and we were read passages….there are still some harrowing accounts that I still recall…..graphic in their descriptions


  1. The prose is so well paced, building up to the impact of the haiku and the image, Suzanne, that it seemed I was there in the gallery with you. Even though I could not see the photographs as they were unpacked, placed in position and then hung on chains, I imagined them from the reactions of the viewers in the empty gallery.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing. Powerful prose that takes us step by step through the process of preparing the exhibit….uncrating, exact measurements….the process and then, the stark reality of looking, really looking, before the gallery opened. The horror in the image here….and a powerful haiku to complete. An amazing write.

    Liked by 1 person

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