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Hiroshima, a city that had stood for 400 years, was razed to the ground by the force of the bomb, which killed up to 140000 people and left a legacy of sickness for many years to come. Red oleanders blossomed in the city the year after the bomb, but many children of survivors were born deformed. Two years afterwards there was a rise in leukemias; ten years afterwards the incidence of cancers rose.


And there were questions, a whole thicket of questions. US president Harry Truman is said to have authorised bombing the Japanese rather than Europeans because their foreignness made it more acceptable to the American public. Whether that was true or not, he believed to the end of his days that by dropping the bomb he had cut short the war and prevented many more lives being lost.


That has been the subject of much debate over the years, particularly given that the US knew Japan had informally sought help from Russia in  negotiating peace.


But ordinary individuals also had questions to ask themselves - was it right to work in factories creating nuclear weapons, even if you did live in a blighted working town in the north of England? to send soldiers, unknowing, to take part in nuclear tests, leaving their health destroyed? Would the world ever recover from a nuclear war?

John S Savage 

5 Haiku



How beautiful are
the shadows dancing on walls

-- hatred put them there.



Tears over the stones,

mothers and babies imprint

-- happy one per cent



Oh, the rich man dreams
while the poor man screams
about radioactive beams


The men in their suits
itch to push the peace button

-- they love mushroom soup



Tears held in old hands
as new faces tick same boxes

-- the future whimpers

Alun Robert

The Stronger


she stands alone numb

where cherry blossom would snow

where absent friends would play





where her kindergarten rose high

full of peace

full of promise

in life before hell happened

to crumble it to rubble


as stillness surrounds her

in wake of a new morning

no trucks

no trains

not any militia in sight


so quiet apart from guttural

the growling

the hissing

apart from those crying

prostate on the ground


the orphan of hope

not today

not tomorrow

though after the mourning

she will return

the stronger


The Poisonous Mushroom


Drafted into the military

like all my street gang.

Survived through boot camp

though it tested my strength.

Consigned to an active unit

a long way from home to

live in a tin hut with

over thirty new pals.


Were bussed into desert.

Sun shining, no cloud above.

Wore our combats, regular boots

put on helmets, carried rifles then

assigned to tight trenches

told to keep our heads down,

hand cover our ears cause

the noise would be loud.


Deafening! Painful.

The light and the wave.

Felt the ground move

like a Frisco earthquake.

Crawled out of the trenches

covered in a blown dust.

Saw the mushroom of power

not knowing what they done.


They tested us all over.

We crackled from crud so

they brushed off our uniforms,

dusty boots and the rest.

Showered back at camp.

Had a few cold beers.

Were told to say nothing

for this was hush-hush.


Was delisted soon after.

Went home to the folks.

Did not hold reunions until

pals fell from the plague.

More and more went down.

Soon it was my turn with

Uncle Sam compensating

my widow, my kids.


Gave my life for the country

like all my street gang

in the name of research

in hands of the rich while

the vulnerable can be burned,

their land poisoned from

those possessing power to

control the mushroom.

Christmas Island 1957


on Kiritimati

aka Christmas Island

middle Pacific

tropical atoll

far from mainland

far out of sight

nuclear testing

cold war hot


conscripts sat

upon beach sand

National Service

November ’57

naked torsos

khaki shorts

closed their eyes

faced the sea


as if by magic

a mushroom rose

flash of light

scorching heat

spat the blast

upon their backs

bones appeared

like x-ray vision


fed toxic water


made them sick

doing their duty

incurred bomb trauma

time and time again

as guinea pigs

nuclear radiation


no military medals

no battle honours

victims of peace

clandestine war

taken too early

from the curse

wanton exposure

on Kiritimati


Image by Tom Staziker from Pixabay

Polar Opposites


Barrow-in Furness, small Cumbrian town,

central to the production of a nuclear arsenal

capable of wiping out civilisation.

My birthplace, where I had


Walney Island with beaches to explore,

Sunday afternoon trips to the Lake District,

Furness abbey with a natural amphitheatre

perfect for sledging in winter.


Most parents worked in the shipyard,

Barrow’s major employer

‘nest of the dragon, pure evil’

or ‘a dream place to work?’ Polar opposites.


To a child, unaware of the dark truths behind

the names spawned at Vickers yard

names like Dreadnought,

Polaris spelled adventure.


Uncles, sent to Scotland to test work

on submarines begun in Barrow’s

yard had a job to be envied


until, as a teenager sporting Ban the Bomb

logos on my satchel, I became aware of

what was going on ‘in the yard.’


Long after I left Barrow, news

filtered through. I learnt of a new

monstrous building that towers

over the town, hiding Trident


more deadly than any minotaur. This

is real, not a problem to be resolved

by a modern day Theseus. Now, I’m


hundreds of miles from Barrow

yet here, on a clear day,

from the top of Cairnsmore, I see

that monster’s lair dominate, haunt.

joe williams 



The space race was never enough.

The war could not be won

by Laika, or Yuri, or Neil.


So Spassky and Fischer

were sent to the front line,

reluctant troops in Reykjavik,

playing to save the world.


The Soviet’s revenge

was on the basketball court,

an arena as unlikely

as a miracle on ice.


Americans never

marched in Moscow,

nor Russians in LA.

Better a boycott

than a Bay of Pigs,

a button pushed,

The Bomb.


Was the last blow laid

on the cinema screen,

when Rocky put down Drago?

A fitting end in fiction

to a war that wasn’t real.


Thrie Etudes i the Key o Green

(Chernobyl April/May 1986)




'Gin we cuidna deal wi this

How could we deal wi thon?'

An ingan dome is kittled bi the sun's licht.


As anither day, an ikon fir ti kiss,

The shots ti expeck, though the horseman gallopt on,

Dostoyevsky thocht that glow his final sicht.




The warld gone grey, aa grey, save the bleckened twist

o the leevin wha lang ti dee

They're the hinmaist ribble stasht on history's cairn.


Gin that's no yit, en eenou cuid be missed

Spring eichtie-sax has the horror we canna see,

That blichts the gress owre the corp o cancered bairn.




Unlock oor brain-jyle wi the key o green!

The rhythims of the sap an o the bluid,

An verdant mairrit ti vermilion.


Or whit sall gladden oor een

As we byde here manacled

Whan the domes o daith explode in unison?



(Notes: lines 1-2   an American doctor speakin i the Kremlin efter Chernobyl 

line 15   the East German scriever Rudolf Bahro has advocatit a synthesis o ecologie an socialism.)



(Fir the weemen at Greenham Common)


Thon glow o lamps athort the muckle brig

That jynes twa continents, could indicate

The terget fir a bomb, that nou micht lig

Silent, but gleg fir yuise some future date.

Ay, an it waits ahent some baurbed wire fence

Whase ugsome length fae caunles is revealed

By queans and carlines singing o their sense

O daungers that fae maist fowk are concealed.

Tho camera lichts record some scenes o threat -

Lichts whaur the storm troops chairge - or dinna yet -

Lichts whaur a macho power itself asserts

Thir lichts maun brichten mair nor they dae now

Or greater lichts sall at the last ensue

Owre late ti show the daurkness o oor herts.


An alien x-ray


Unstable dictators

Juggle bombs in a circus

Foreboding horror

A post apocalypse status

Balancing terror

A world of just three blind mice


The cusp of Armageddon

A nuclear cafe

A voodoo garden

The earth like an ashtray

Chemist’s crimes of arson

An alien x-ray


Punch and Judy threaten

Both sides of the iron curtain

Toys are deadly weapons

Politicians must bargain

Or we combust to phantoms

Explode on spits of venom


Nuclear Impact Assessment


always opposing

what did they expect



determine key differences

to be achieved

independent thought -  rubble

chanting slogans       -  screams and silence

people moaning        -  people moaning


sort and prioritise

spread sheets will assist in charting success

how far did body parts scatter

how large the craters


make decisions using the results

focus groups may be useful

remind who to hate


ensure there are bigger bombs

smarter death more destruction

more shock more awe


in the military

there is deep experience

in planning change


Nuclear Warning


my great uncle barely knew

nuclear war

he died before the Cuban crisis

I see him teach me cards

how to link numbers

I see him smile


we never discussed how

to frazzle a million people

we never wondered if the bomb

had secured western democracy


he laughed and lifted me

he gave me love


tomorrow when the bomb lands

unscrew the kitchen door

lay it over the table

we have four minutes

to create a shelter

kiss your sister


Burial Rites


I thought it given

Hiroshima and Nagasaki

seen as the stench of old


I though we knew

there are no winners in destruction

would not tip into the mire


I thought our sense

would not bring us from the heights

down to the pains of ignorance


I see rage spread

seeping from our scourging

whipped in by lesser men


I feel the blindness

seeking for the night

cocooned in self


I have fears

the dragon’s teeth are sown

armies will fight to death


I carve a stone

in this wilderness



earth’s heart stuff laid bare (Ted Hughes – Bridestones)


beating out a drum roll of war, time for the troops to gather on the deserts, to march the stone dry roads, prepare for earthquake and hurricane, for the tempest bringing Caliban and monsters of our imagining, now we rewrite all our warnings, tear down every sign-post, we will not welcome raven or dove, for this battle was lost before we realised we were the enemy, so we will gather at our funeral parade girded with past honours of destruction, pinned to our chest the long dead, wearing the coats of the fallen, some will head to the planets, take flight in the hope of new worlds, will look down on earth’s heart stuff laid bare, our blue planet turning, turning weaker and dying


When Rainbow Coloured Caps Spell Hope


Like a primary-coloured train

snaking along the tracks

you walk in formation

bright caps and bags denoting your youth


you move in trusting uniformity

following one after another

growing quieter with each exhibit viewed

through rooms weighed down with sorrow


you mix with tourists clutching cameras

tightly to heavy chests

together we grow to understand the dawn

of a new time in humanity


as the last exhibits thin enough to move

we step out into sunlit spaces

with eyes blinking softly, only in part

due to the watery reflections thrown skywards

from the monuments of glass, steel and stone

held reverentially within the Peace Park


Amidst the city’s cacophony of noise

even the buses passing by, seem subdued

quieting in respect on a journey taken daily

by new eyes, keen to understand


We stand entranced by the single Lotus flower

floating boldly to remind us that nature renews

even where man has reduced all to atoms

we see hope rising from Hiroshima’s pain


Bowing our heads again

still silent, we leave of choice

knowing that tens of thousands

did not get the chance

to hold hope in adulthood.


Photo by Janet Crawford



Heiwa no tokei-tō
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park



eight fifteen a.m.



of sound




















Peter A



After words

their last have

spoken and

from here gone



it is said


will make the


earth their own

Do you see


some                    may be


working to


behind the

scenes                              planning





                            the endgame


from which all


are due to



after the black


the slaughter of

words and laughter






And yes, afterwards

Perhaps there shall be what the humans once called, 'Weeds'

Yet pretty in the ruins

Green urgent shoots, they do not know they were once called, 'Ugly'

There may one day be trees

All over the World, surviving

Covering the scars. Giving out oxygen for what remains.

So much lives on through the radiation

Yet still, many species have been cruelly mutated

But lichens? Yes, beautiful lichens will survive,



The United States of America, Lecanora, The United Kingdom, Lepraria, Israel, Xanthoria, Russia, Parmelia, France, Physcia, China, Hypogymnia


The unquestioning masses are silent now for ever. No longer worried by doubts.

The believers are in their heaven - if it exists

And the Politicians have fought their war to the best of their abilities

But, the cost




Dark and burnt.

Before it was the opposite.

England’s green and pleasant land

Possible to stand at the end of the road


And gaze out upon the fields.


Everything is scorched now.


The ground always tells stories.


This ground tells tales of


What is now


And what once was.


Hopeful Fools


The day came

when we tumbled blinking into the light

like fools, revealed

like fools who’d forgotten their own address

like prodigals peeing in their own stairwells,

trashing their own homes.


And blinking in that bright relentless light, 

we stopped, unsteady and raw,

broken dusty feet 

bleeding our shame and dereliction, and

we turned our faces to the forgiving, blessed sun 

and - hopeful fools - we learned a new way to live.





How many white poppies

how many paper cranes

how many posters

how many marches

will it take


to remember the year - 1945

to remember the month - August

to remember the dates - 6th & 9th?


‘Little Boy’ and ‘Fat Man’

names that bely the horror,

carnage, sheer inhumanity

of  destruction that killed and

maimed hundreds of thousands.


However many white poppies

however many paper cranes,

however many posters

however many marches

can there ever be enough?


We should never give up hope,

never stop remembering so

one day maybe all peoples will say

No! No more to nuclear war.

Stephanie Green

Prayer for Peace

(On the 75th Anniversary of Hiroshima’s Atomic Bomb, 8.15am, 6th August, 1945).


Fall silent at 8.15 for a minute.


What can we do except fight darkness with light:

               candle-lit lanterns,

                          floating in their thousands,

gold flickers of hope on the dark flowing river.

Adam Pellant
The Nuclear OptionAdam Pellant
00:00 / 02:53
Pauline Bradley
Nuclear Weapons are Now__ IllegalPauline Bradley
00:00 / 03:07
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