What Rough Beast | Poem for September 10, 2017

Marc J. Cid
For the Hiroshima Peace Flame, and All Her Brothers and Sisters

You are lamentably beautiful at 53 years burning—
an as-of-yet unfulfilled promise, a rejoinder. I wonder
if we could treat you with Olympic reverence
every anniversary of the annihilation and poisoning
of Hiroshima, of Nagasaki, of the annihilation and poisoning
of the Japanese, and of the human race status update
to becoming the single greatest existential threat to itself,
species sapiens evolving
from omnivorous, to omnicidal
with the press of a button,
with the casting of a vote,
with the transfer of campaign funds,
with the broadcast of militaristic
and fearmongering populist demagogues,
with the blame games and shaming of names,
with the rallying of hate and hate accessories

and it was a previous iteration of this cycle
that birthed you, the Hiroshima Peace Flame.

Maybe we could fulfill the wish for which you burn,
if every year we could relay runners
to spread you cross-country, cross-borders
cross-demilitarized zones, cross-channels,
cross-gulfs, cross-oceans with bearers
of every skin color and national allegiance starting
from you and passing by your neighbor, the crane-folding statue
of Sadoko Sasaki, sculpted and standing for the thousands of child victims
of the Manhattan Project’s progeny in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park,
swing southwest to another archipelago and the water-wading bronze likenesses
of General Douglas MacArthur and President-in-exile Sergio Osmeña
in MacArthur Landing Memorial National Park on Leyte’s Red Beach,
pass the torch due north and 360 feet underground through Pyongang’s metro
dug that deep to pull double duty as a nuclear shelter,
then off west to Moscow to sprint through Tretyakov Gallery,
circle 146 times around the pyramid pile of skulls glaring
out of the painting The Apotheosis of War, once for every year
gone by since its maker Vasily Vereschagin sarcastically inscribed
into its frame the phrase: “This is dedicated to all great conquerors,
past, present, and future,” then swerve southeast to the dove-topped marble monument
of the Tehran Peace Museum inaugurating the 20th anniversary
of Iraq’s gassing of Sardasht, on which it is inscribed:
“That terrible suffering gave us a new understanding
of the cruelty of war, the terror of weapons of mass destruction,
and the importance of peace. Until the day when all people on Earth
can live in peace, we will continuously send messages of peace to the world,”
pass over northwest to Vienna’s Albertinaplatz and its Monument
Against War and Fascism, the bifurcated white Gates of Violence and its effigies
of mangled limbs and gas masks, of a dying woman birthing a soldier,
chained slave laborers and barbed wire-bound Jews,
and then carried North, South, East, West, illuminating every monument to peace
of which I am still ignorant, to every memorial to the dead
not yet constructed, every reminder of atrocities committed long ago
or for atrocities still in progress, to every peace monument and memorial
never created but this time, never created because they don’t have to be,
because this time, we avoid atrocity because this time,
we choose peace, because this time, we say not this time choose not
to gas, to bomb, to nuke, to sterilize, to enslave, to hurt one another
for God, for Allah, for country, for communism,
for capitalism, for all lives finally
will matter and we can say that
without worrying we are erasing
the plights of the marginalized,
because the human race will progress to the point
where we no longer believe we must hate and hurt each other to thrive.

Dear Hiroshima Peace Flame,
I am sorry I did not know about you or your siblings sooner,
I am sorry it took commander-in-chief tweets to herald
the potential birth of another memorial to recidivistically
and sadomasochistically mourn another unthinkable
pyramid pile of irradiated skulls, to notice your picture,
to notice the magnitude of your family dynasty built
and painted and ignited in trying to deny any more death.
I am sorry if I overlooked you due to sleeping in history class,
or I am sorry my history teachers and textbooks
never spoke to me of your existence,
I am sorry that so many peace monuments
can be seen as hypocritical,
I am sorry so many of our societies
have so much blood on our hands,
that even if we apologized
for every slaughter and atrocity
we have committed, our contrition
would not make things right and yet
we haven’t even managed such a pittance.

But if we could relay run around the world
with open hands and borders passing torches
from monument to memorial,
from Hiroshima to Tehran, to Vienna,
pounding feet and heaving lungs
sending streaks of fire across water
and earth over long buried bullet casings,
above acres of filled-in trenches and deactivated land mines,
through concentration camp-turned museums,
what will it, what will we, amount to?

Hiroshima Peace Flame, do you believe
you will be blown out, not by birthday wishes,
but by the winds from mushroom cloud shockwaves?

Or do you believe we can lay you to rest
on wings of smoke having fulfilled the wish
on which you were born to be extinguished,
once all the nuclear bombs
on our planet are erased?


Marc J. Cid is the author of Theatrical Release, a chapbook published in 2017. His poems have appeared in Cadence Collective, The Black Napkin, East Jasmine Review, and Incandescent Mind, as well as in the anthologies Short Poems Ain’t Got Nobody to Love (2016) and Snorted the Moon and Doused the Sun (2017), both published by For the Love of Words Collective and edited by Raundi K. Moore-Kondo. Marc works with a media company, lives in Downey, California, and can often be found performing at various poetry open mic nights throughout Southern California.

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