It seems to be the most terrible thing ever discovered.
— July 25, 1945 from the diary of Harry S. Truman
At 7 a.m. the siren
cried ̶ lonely and insistent ̶
unsettling a new born mother
and sparrows in flight.
At 8, there was no calm
for Toshiko in the silence
of the all-clear lie.
At 8:15 and from 30,000
feet above, a Little Boy fell
into the future toward pristine arms.
8:15:44 flashed so swiftly that
did not pass in front of
80,000 pairs of eyes.
If annihilation knew respite,
Toshiko could have smelled the scent
of Hiroki’s seared black hair,
heard his murmur at her breast.
If even the smallest of gods had mercy,
Toshiko could have whispered
a prayer into his tiny ears
before the shredding of her lungs,
before the rupture of his drums,
before their bones crackled in the fire.
If her sockets still held eyes,
she could have witnessed the precise
moment when the sparrows fell
back to the earth.
First Day of School, 1958
On the playground, the
white sharks pull
knives from their pockets with gazes
sharp enough to shape
(an old man's) nightmares. They press
the points against the belly of the new Black boy.
Their laughs rimmed with incisors.
He prays for the National Guard
he's seen on television
as his 5-year-old eyes fill.
In the school bathroom
they spin him from the urinal;
roll him on his back.
Confirm the brownness
all his skin.
Later his teacher notes on his
that he never laughs,
wonders why he takes everything
decides that he can't take ajoke.
Le Hinton is the author of five poetry collections including, most recently, The Language of Moisture and Light. His work has been selected to appear in The Best American Poetry 2014.