August 6, 1945, is the day that the first American atomic bomb was dropped over Hiroshima.
This bomb, nicknamed "Little Boy," was dropped upon Hiroshima. Later, the United States dropped a bomb over Nagasaki because the government of Japan refused to surrender unconditionally.
Vikram Seth's poem, "A Doctor's Journal Entry for August 6, 1945," which describes the horrors witnessed and endured by physicians when the atomic bomb falls, is ironically unassuming in tone. Even the simplicity of style belies the horrific moments witnessed and experienced by the doctor.
The poem begins much like the Japanese haiku:
The morning stretched calm, beautiful and warm.
Sprawling half clad, I gazed out at the form
Of shimmering leaves and shadows.
Without warning, the doctor suddenly feels his skin burning and sees his blood; immediately, he frantically searches for his wife, only to find her also blood-soaked. They rush out and run down the street, but trip over a dead body that has been blown apart:
We fell tripped, by something at our feet,
I gasped out, when I saw it was a head;
Excuse me, please excuse me – He was dead.
Horrified, they push on toward the hospital until the doctor can go no farther, and he must sit down. He instructs his wife to continue to the hospital. When he regains some strength, he again walks and finds others, all stoically holding their arms out to avoid the pain of the raw flesh touching another body part. Yet,
Silence was common to us all. I heard
No cries of anguish, or a single word.
Despite this horrific event and the pain endured, the Japanese rebuilt Hiroshima and Nagasaki. While "A Doctor's Journal Entry for August 6, 1945" depicts the horrors of the bombing, it also implies what one critic calls "the moral nakedness" of those who could order and carry out this bombing.