Page 2478 - Week 08 - Thursday, 6 August 2015

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They need comfort, and a gathering of strength,

For they are going to his grandfather’s house

Where the old man lies dying.

They arrive.

Greeted tenderly by his grandmother, the boy sees

In her face dazed disbelief, great weariness, and a hint

Of relief. She takes them in.

It’s near the end.

With shock the child sees in the old man’s eyes

The gathering film which he saw on his pet bird’s

As life left it. His grandfather raises

A claw-like hand in signal, and his wife

Brings and places in Hideki’s hands

A wooden box with a delicious smell.

Covered in carvings of tendrils, flowers, fruits.

The boy’s heart swells. He knows what is inside.

His grandmother whispers, ‘He knows you wish

To study music. He wants you to have the flute.

It’s his most precious thing.’ The boy turns shining eyes

Towards the bed. It may be the last thing

The old man sees. His face relaxes, is blank.

Some two weeks later, on a fine August morning

They rise early, for they have a way to travel

To the great city where, for the first time

Hideki will meet his teacher. He carries his instrument

With great care, wrapped up in a clean cloth,

For the carved box, too, is a treasure.

His mother is worried. Because of the war

Travel is always subject to delays

And she dreads the discourtesy of lateness

At the very first lesson. But for the boy

This tension is overlaid by waves

Of joy and expectation. He sees himself

Playing a flute outside a temple, in a garden

On an island in a lake and from his instrument

The still and poised sounds will flow out

Around the world, mending sorrow, with comfort

For sick and suffering people. Everywhere.

‘Don’t dawdle, Hideki,’ his anxious mother says.

They hear a plane, but after the first start,

Take no further notice. It’s a single aircraft,

Not a raid, and they’ve been informed

There’s usually one reconnaissance plane about now.

‘Do hurry, sweetheart. We are past the time.’

And so they are walking quickly together

Along a street in central Hiroshima.

As I say, I thank the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom for holding this commemoration ceremony in Civic Square today at the statue of Ethos to ensure that, as a Canberra community, we are reminded of the terrible consequences of that day in 1945 when the world’s first nuclear weapon was detonated in an act of

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