Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | December 8, 2011

For the Day after Pearl Harbor Day–A Poem about the Death of Hirohito

Read Hirohito’s history. He was not a pacifist nice guy. He agreed with his generals in the unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor. Except for MacArthur’s insistence, he could’ve been tried for war crimes.

The Emperor Is Dead

Thousands of black umbrellas
like bubbles on a pool of oil,
reflect the Japanese winter sky.
Solemn faces at the edge
stare up at the camera
tilting their protection;
-rain wets their white shirts.

Some of these, no doubt,
once watched the Emperor of the Rising Sun
pacing a white stallion across palace lawns,
glittering in plumed helmet and medieval armor,
-inside the Imperial moat.

Some screamed “TORA, TORA, TORA!”
above the sleeping harbor
in a December dawn;
or shook in the steam of malarial jungles.
Now, they stand wrinkled in the chill rain,
caught somewhere between the glory
that sat on the Chrysanthemum Throne,
and golf on Okinawa,
just miles up the sunny coast from cliffs
where Imperial Army officers leaped,
in a hara-kiri dive,
rather than fall
before the sweep of America’s steel typhoon.

The Sony’s picture is clear, its colors exact;
Hirohito is dead.

Mourning for their emperor –
death of empire, began
when they first heard him speak;
-the voice of god in radio static-
telling of incredible brightness
at Hiroshima… at Nagasaki,
and unconditional surrender.
He knelt, then
more than forty years
before his sea anemones.
Did they bow delicate, watery heads
before his hand?

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