Editor’s Note: The 6th and the 9th of August are dates forever tarnished by a terrible and cruel act of war in 1945. On August 6th the first atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima. On August 9th, the second atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki, the centre of Catholicism in Japan. In two terrifying instants hundreds of thousands of human beings were killed – many vaporized – and injured, and history was changed forever.
In this poem by Sadako Kurihara, we enter a world of darkness in which the doomed and bewildered are called to live beyond despair by becoming midwives of hope.
We offer this poem as a memorial of all who suffered and died and as a reminder that the Risen Lord calls us to also be deliverers of hope for a future threated by Climate Change and the loss of biodiversity:
Night in the basement of a concrete structure now in ruins.
Victims of the atomic bomb jammed the room;
It was dark—not even a single candle.
The smell of fresh blood, the stench of death,
The closeness of sweaty people, the moans.
From out of all that, lo and behold, a voice:
“The baby’s coming!”
In that hellish basement,
At that very moment, a young woman had gone into labour.
In the dark, without a single match, what to do?
People forgot their own pains, worried about her.
And then: “I’m a midwife. I’ll help with the birth.”
The speaker, seriously injured herself, had been moaning only moments before.
And so new life was born in the dark of that pit of hell.
And so the midwife died before dawn, still bathed in blood.
Let us be midwives!
Let us be midwives!
Even if we lay down our own lives to do so.
Sadako Kurihara (1913 – 2005) was a poet, writer and peace activist who survived the Hiroshima bombing. “Let Us Be Midwives” was based on her experience in a shelter in the aftermath of the bombing. (In reality, the midwife survived and was later able to meet the child she had delivered.) The poem was translated by Richard Minear, professor emeritus at UMass Amherst.