Gerda Stevenson

Gerda Stevenson

Gerda Stevenson is an award-winning writer, actor, director, singer and songwriter. She has worked in theatre, TV, radio, film and opera.

Little Boy
Sunday, 08 November 2020 10:20

Little Boy

Published in Poetry

Little Boy

by Gerda Stevenson

Little Boy is on his way, snug
in the metal womb of Enola Gay,
all of his components prepped,
but not quite ready yet –
his system fine-tuned only after take-off –
safety first for his birthing crew.
The pilot gives full throttle:
Do it for me, Momma!
Overloaded, Enola Gay
eats up the whole runway –
Momma, come ON! –
and lifts into night;

six hours to go;
lieutenant and weaponeer
grope in torchlight
along the portside catwalk
to the pitch-black bay,
armed with Thy might
in the name of Jesus Christ –
the chaplain’s prayer before flight
that nailed their mission to the cross
and gave it a tail wind of righteousness;

and he’s primed now – no going back –
Little Boy, nestling there,
like the baby saviour
in the virgin’s amniotic sac,
carried into that bright morning
on the last, steep climb
to bombing altitude,
and then
let go;
six miles
in 44 seconds,
to Hiroshima below,
where someone called Kazuko
lifts her child from his cot,
the River Ota outside, its seven streams
full and tranquil – slack water at high tide,
while high above in cloud-flecked blue
Enola Gay banks into her getaway –
a nine-mile dash – and makes it
by a hair’s breadth, chased by shimmers
from a ghostly flash;

barely born, Little Boy has made his mark:
lit ten thousand suns at every window,
then snuffed them out, shocked eyeballs
from sockets into palms, skin to rags –
futile surrender flags in sudden twilit limbo –
lungs and throats a desert drought,
bodies burning at four thousand Celsius
from the inside out.

 Author's note: Little Boy was the codename for the atomic bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, the first nuclear weapon used in warfare. Little Boy was dropped by the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay, named after Enola Gay Tibbets, the mother of the pilot, Colonel Paul Tibbets. The accompanying observation planes were named The Great Artiste and Necessary Evil.

Editor's note: Gerda Stevenson's latest book is Quines, read about it here.