On this dew-softened August morning in 1985,
precisely 40 years on from the ritual murder of Nagasaki,
I have picked the sun-shards that clung dazzling
to bindweed and nettle, newly-resurgent
after days of drizzle, denying me access to my daily bread.
I had thought it only in fine writing
that sermons in stone and foliage
lend insight to the Sensitive
and that snail-spoor traces coherent patterns
across God’s universe in explication
of some fragment of purpose. Yet how,
standing amid bright green debris
on this of all days, can I not be reminded of how
weeks after the epicentral sterilization
of those tortured hostage cities
the weeds were reclaiming the ruined earth
with a vigour mutated but undaunted?
I have lived my 30-something years
with a terminal disease,
a cancer of the imagination,
victim of a plague that spares no-one,
no less necrotic for passing largely unnoticed.
Those assuming total acceptance and unconcern
are no less traumatised than those whose nightmares
are a bedlam of glowing winds, rublle and ash,
perhaps accepting nuclear euthanasia
the more joyfully.
I have shielded my eyes with my hands
and seen my on finger-bones;
I have been crushed by the dragon’s breath
and buried in its passing;
my shadow is welded
to the shrieking concrete;
Published in Vertical Images 1, 1986. Copyright David Harley, 1985. It was written at a time when the Cold War still seemed an ever-present danger, and CND rallies still attracted significant support. A few years later, the Soviet Union had collapsed and nuclear weapons didn’t seem to carry the same terror. But is the world any safer today?