August 9, 1945: The Day the Insects Died
inhumanity and brutality
struggling just to survive
one day the sun rose twice
then the insects died
quoting the Bhagavad Gita
Einstein’s equation helped energize
Oppenheimer the shatterer of worlds
killing the bugs at Trinity site
amid rubble and devastation
radiation invisible to the eye
in Hiroshima and Nagasaki
people were dropping like flies
(c)2004 Marc Suttle
Coming of age after the Cuban missile crisis, I can vaguely remember “duck and cover” drills. With more recent world events I occasionally wonder if I will ever see a bright flash of color in the sky followed by a thunderous boom and say “it’s the end of civilization as we know it”.
Growing up I knew a man who, to me, epitomized the image of the rugged outdoor type. Tall, tanned, with a deep resonant voice, he introduced my family to the joys of camping. Our families socialized either at church or on lazy weekend afternoons. As a teenager I heard whispered comments about a certain member of our church congregation who was supposedly captured by the Japanese during World war II. I had always imagined it was one of the older, frailer men whose ill health was a result of their internment. I was shocked decades later to learn it was actually this strong, energetic family friend. He was in the U.S. Navy at the outbreak of World War II when his ship was sunk just off Corregidor. Captured and held by the Japanese throughout the war, I cannot begin to imagine what he endured. During a visit to my home town several years ago I decided to drop in unannounced for a visit. I was warmly received by him and his wife. During the course of our conversation he volunteered some unsolicited observations about his time as a prisoner of war. Apart from how his current health was affected by the diet he was forced to live on by the Japanese, the most interesting comment concerned the dropping of the second atomic bomb on nearby Nagasaki close to where his prison camp was located. He said that he knew something had occurred because all the insects at the camp and coal mine where he was forced to labor suddenly died. Hence the impetus for my poem.
This man’s son also served in the U.S. Navy, but in a very different capacity. He was a hospital corpsman assigned to a U.S. Marine combat unit in Vietnam where he was killed April 22, 1970.