Hiroshima Poems

Poetry, Writing Creatively

We are lucky enough to say we have a pal named Garland Richmond, who taught German at Emory University for 37 years, and served as Dean of Student Academic Affairs. He was so valued by the university they named a research award after him! Garland is currently President of Bellingham’s Whatcom Chorale board of directors, and of course contributes his great voice to their programs. His skills as translator were used effectively in translating an entire Chorale program from German into English.

Here’s a beautiful and tragic poem Garland translated from the German with the care we’ve come to expect of him.

—Maria Luise Kaschnitz
(Translated by Garland Richmond)

The man who threw death down on Hiroshima
Joined a cloister, rings the bells there now.
The man who threw death down on Hiroshima
Jumped in a noose from a stool
And strangled himself.
The man who threw death down on Hiroshima
Went out of his mind, fends off ghosts,
Hundreds of thousands, who come at him nightly,
Resurrected from the dust just for him.

None of that is true.
Not long ago I saw him
In the garden of his house in the suburbs.
The hedges were still young and the rose bushes delicate,
Things don’t grow fast enough for him to hide
In the forest of forgetting. Plain to see was
The naked suburban house, the young wife
Standing beside it in her flowered dress,
Holding the little girl’s hand,
The boy, sitting on the man’s back,
Swinging the whip over his head.
He himself was recognizable
On all fours on the plot of grass, his face
Contorted in laughter, because the photographer
Stood behind the hedge, the eye of the world.

Blueprint by James Bertolino, a broadside. Click on the poem for a larger version.

The poem’s early rhythm and repetition are haunting, and add a kind of urgency to the poem. The second stanza is a simple commentary, with any bitterness justified by what went before. But we still can feel the poet’s fist raised and shaking in the air.

I think one of Garland’s favorite poems may be “Blueprint” by James Bertolino, which is included in Jim’s book Finding Water, Holding Stone. Garland has twice identified New Yorker covers which used the poem’s imagery without crediting the source (he’s such a kidder). I recently made a broadside of this poem to send to Garland as a way of saying “Thank you.” He is a generous soul, active in our community, and very passionate about art, music and literature.

—posted by Anita K. Boyle and James Bertolino