Einstein’s Voice

From Reverberations From Fukushima: 50 Japanese Poets Speak Out
by Hiroyoshi Kamatsu

“Bamboo poles for sale!
Bamboo poles for sale!”

While I am reading the newspaper, reclining
in the afternoon on a summer’s day,
I hear the sing-song cry of a man selling laundry poles.*

The atomic bomb, Little Boy, was dropped on Hiroshima
at 15 minutes and 17 seconds past 9:00 a.m.
August 6, Tinian Time.
It is said
when the news reached Einstein,
who had contributed to the Manhattan Project,
he just uttered a groan:

Oh weh!**

And
in similar words in a will
he wrote five months before his death:
If I had my life to live over again,
I would like to be a tinsmith or a traveling salesman,
not a scientist or a teacher.

Bamboo poles for sale!
Bamboo poles for sale!
Bamboo poles for sale!

No one seems to be buying any bamboo poles.
Outside the windows
the sky is clear, like in Hiroshima.

Oh weh!

Did he turn at the street corner?
The voice of the traveling salesman, Einstein,
is fading further away.

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* Laundry poles are long bamboo poles (or aluminum poles) used for hanging laundry to dry.

** Oh Weh (alternate, Oy vey) is a German/Austrian expression of pain or sadness.

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