Nagasaki crows

‘It was the corpses of the Koreans that remained scattered in the ruins longer than any others. One reason is that although many Japanese people survived the atomic bombing, very few Koreans survived. There was nothing we could do. Crows flew down in flocks from the sky and ate the eyeballs of the Korean corpses. They ate the eyeballs.’

—From “Chrysanthemum and Nagasaki”, an installation at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum by Ishimure Michiko.

It remains possible to believe there
was nothing anyone could do about
the melted bottles, burnt coins etc … as for the
corpses lying in the streets and wreckage
of Nagasaki, we tend to forget how
the body resists history; we pretend that
Koreans look different, or
that victims are all the same, even when they
remained silent, we could hear their voices,
scattered across the unbelievably blue sky, hanging
in trees, or from twisted crosses, populating
the horror invisibly, keeping time, giving
ruins a human aspect, a curtain of dead flesh
longer than a shroud, sadder
than silent bells, more dignified than
any surrender, never to be buried like the
others.
One day we shall know their names, the
reason for their being there, that morning. Death
is just another criminal, an adversary
that does not need a motive,
although we may wish to assign it one. The
many cries, the stunned desolation of this
Japanese port town in the moonlight – its
people scattered like broken glass. Even the walls that
survived bear shadows like execution drawings, and inside
the museum, the pathetic legacy of
atomic testing around the world lingers. We’re still
bombing, while they sue for peace. Of course, it’s
very hard to know who suffered the most. Was it the
few who remained to bear witness, or the
Koreans who disappeared? It’s hard to know what exactly
survived.
There among the dead horses and railway girders,
was an abandonment of sanity, from which
nothing could be salvaged, despite the crows
we saw circling in the blood-red skies. After this,
could anything grow from evil? There was nothing left to
do.
Crows are sacred in many cultures. That morning, as they
flew about, making their raids, we sat with our heads
down between shame and annihilation. Meaning existed
in their grim and tidy circles, their flexing
flocks and dusted beaks. They grew fat and sick
from the flesh of the Koreans. We watched
the dim carnival play itself out, while the
sky burned into stillness
and the shrieks grew faint. Scarily, we
ate rice cakes sent from surrounding towns, as
the rare medics wandered about dispensing water. Our
eyeballs remained fixed in a groundward stare. Out
of nowhere, the crows came again, seeking
the remains, the plastic souls of those
Korean dead with no names. They were no longer simply
corpses.
They became ghosts that haunt our city still. We
ate rice cakes that may or may not have carried
the crows’ radiation. They ate the
eyeballs.

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