the explosion, from a mini supernova, caused every living animal, human, or plant that received direct contact with the rays from that sun was instantly turned to ash. What was left of the city soon followed. The long lasting damage of nuclear radiation caused an entire city, and its population, to turn into powder.
When I was born, my mom says I looked around the whole hospital room with a stare that said, “This? I’ve done this before.” She says I have old eyes. When my Grandpa Genji died, I was only five years old, but I took my mom by the hand and told her, “Don’t worry, he’ll come back as a baby.” And yet, for someone who’s apparently done this already, I still haven’t figured anything out yet. My knees still buckle every time I get on a stage. My self-confidence can be measured out in teaspoons, mixed into my poetry, and it still always tastes funny in my mouth.
But in Hiroshima, some people were wiped clean away, leaving only a wrist watch or a diary page. So no matter that I have inhibitions to fill all my pockets, I keep trying, hoping that one day I’ll write a poem I can be proud to let sit in a museum exhibit as the only proof I existed.
My parents named me Sarah, which is a biblical name. In the original story God told Sarah she could do something impossible and she laughed. Because the first Sarah? she didn’t know what to do with impossible. And me? Well, neither do I.
But I see the impossible every day. Impossible is trying to connect in this world, trying to hold on to others while things are blowing up around you, knowing that while you’re speaking they aren’t just waiting for their turn to talk. They hear you. They feel exactly what you feel at the same time that you feel it. It’s what I strive for every time I open my mouth. That impossible connection.
There’s this piece of wall in Hiroshima that was completely burnt black by the radiation. But on the front step, a person who was sitting there blocked the rays from hitting the stone. The only thing left now is a permanent shadow of positive light. After the A-bomb, specialists said it would take seventy-five years for the radiation damaged soil of Hiroshima City to ever grow anything again. But that spring there were new buds popping up from the earth. When I meet you, in that moment, I’m no longer a part of your future. I start quickly becoming part of your past. But in that instant, I get to share your present. And you? You get to share mine. And that is the greatest present of all. So if you tell me I can do the impossible, I’ll probably laugh at you. I don’t know if I can change the world — yet. Because I don’t know that much about it, and I don’t know that much about reincarnation either. But if you make me laugh hard enough, sometimes I forget what century I’m in. This isn’t my first time here. This isn’t my last time here. These aren’t the last words I’ll share. But just in case, I’m trying my hardest to get it right this time around.
- Sarah Kay