August 6th and August 9th: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Tsutomu Yamaguchi was caught up in both horrific events. In Hiroshima on business on the 6th, he returned to Nagasaki for the 9th, already carrying injuries from the first bomb. A remarkable tale and a remarkable man. In January 2010, BBC 3's 'The Verb' programme commissioned me to write about Tsutomu.
In Memoriam Tsutomu Yamaguchi (1916–2010)
A man whom both the waters and the wind,
In that vast tennis-court, have made the ball
For them to play upon — Pericles
General Groves smacked balls around the court
to stop the thought recurring: will it work?
Tibbets badged his plane with his mother’s name,
the superego’s superfortress cradling its Little Boy
and Oppie’s heart was plucked out by the God of Trinity
who battered it and burnished it and pinned it to his breast.
And all the while the hibakusha waited
for the flash of maths so recondite it passed
right through their understanding, lodging in the marrow
where it ran down every body clock to nought.
But Yamaguchi-san, the luckiest of luckless men,
sidestepped it all despite the ticket in his hand
that took him from Ground Zero to Ground Zero,
moving through the crowds of citizens
who gathered up their skins and draped their limbs
like silent senators in togas of themselves,
and swaddled in twelve years of bandages,
he lived two times to tell the tale.