Thursday, August 6, 2020

America Your Face is Dirty

photo © Mark Butkus 2016
Carlos Cortez reflects on the bombing of Hiroshima through poetry.

When your bomb fell
More had fallen
Than just a bomb

When you destroyed a city
More was destroyed
Than just a city

When you killed thousands
In one searing flash
More was lost
Than just human lives

Among those survivors you left
Are those who will bear
the rest of their days
Gruesome scars
Almost as gruesome
As your own invisible

O Great Beautiful
Bargain Counter Democracy
Ever vigilant against
Foreign ideology
Making sure
Great light

Shines upon all
Can you ever wipe from
Your face the blood

— Carlos Cortez

Carlos Cortez was a poet, graphic artist, photographer, muralist and political activist, active for six decades in the Industrial Workers of the World. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1923, he was the son of a Mexican-Indian Wobbly union organizer father and a German socialist-pacifist mother. He spent two years in federal penitentiary for refusing to fight in the second world war.

America Your Face is Dirty is from his 1990 collection, Crystal-gazing the Amber Fluid and Other Wobbly Poems. On August 6, 1945 a nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. On August 9, 1945 a nuclear bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Upwards of 200,000 civilians died in the combined strikes. Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945 thus ending World War II. No nuclear weapons have been used in war ever since.

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