The poem has nine stanzas and is written in free verse. It details a visit to Hiroshima as it moves forward after the devastation of the atomic bomb.
The narrator firstly sees a town ‘like any other in Japan’ and realizes that initially he sees nothing unique. It is a tatty, ‘flimsy’ colorful town: brash and vulgar.
By the second stanza, the sadness begins to emerge. The personification of the river repeatedly ‘refusing rehabilitation’ shows that there is a depth to the tragedy. The vulgarity of the present recording of the cataclysmic events is repellent in its trashy commercialism. This is illustrated in the souvenirs of the ruins
Tricked out with glitter frost and artificial pearls.
The narrator describes the tacky nature of the hotel: ‘jaded’, ‘dingy’ and ‘doleful’ in its attempts to entertain the visitors to this tragic place-
Here atomic peace is geared to meet the tourist trade.
The narrator is strangely content with this, as he sees the shame and awkwardness as part of the monument –
…why should memorials of what was far
From pleasant have the grace that helps us to forget?
Repetition of ‘dying’ and ‘dead’ in the sixth stanza emphasizes that the town is still permeated by death.
The narrator is appalled by the housing for the true relics of the tragedy, and the impact of each item is made clear as each is itemized to emphasize the possibility of a personal story behind each one. It is here that the narrator is finally reduced to tears, and he notes in the final couplet that the impact of these innocent personal remnants is the true reminder of such horror and tragedy-
Remember only these.
They are the memorials we need.