Bradford-On-Avon, Wiltshire, August 6th

© By Gráinne Tobin

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Here is the place:
Where the river runs quietly
Through the cosy town,
Past weavers’ cottages, church and library,
Pub garden and swimming baths,
Under the bridge
Among the evening smells of leaves and water,
From the boating steps
They are floating lanterns for Hiroshima.

Silently (for my Irish voice
Might tell too much)
I drop some money in the bowl,
Take a home-made lantern,
Join the murmuring pilgrims
At the water’s edge.
Without speech, I am invisible, and listen.
The cheerful commonplaces
Of their conversation
Are respectful, like small talk round a graveside.
There are no speeches or announcements.

But in the thickening dusk,
Ceremonially, one by one,
They light their votive candles,
Set down thin craft
With paddling fingers
On the calm dark river.
The wind breathes
Into the paper sails,
The lanterns glide downstream,
Glowing, lit from within
Against the darkness,
Till the current carries them
Softly out of sight.
I light my candle, float my lantern
With the rest, watching some catch
In whorls of water,
Flash and twist to ash,
Their flames extinguished
Like the countless dead.

From: Word of Mouth, Blackstaff, 1996

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