Read ten days ago in a tea room on the Tokyo University of Arts campus in Ueno Park. Ten days ago already! With the poet Dot Devota (who read poems from her forthcoming book, And the Girls Worried Terribly) and the artist James Jack (who screened a film documenting an installation-in-progress on the island of Shodoshima). I read poems. Mostly poems I’m still working on, though some barely even written. I had been, for eighteen nights prior to the reading, writing poems in bed before sleep—lights out, glasses off, face in the pillow—in a tiny, unlined sketchbook I bought on a narrow street in Tainan, Taiwan. I read from these. And because I wrote late at night, in the dark, every night without fail I passed out, pen in hand, making much of the writing unintelligible, so that while reading, I had to improvise the ink stains. I also read, without preface or explanation, testimony from five hibakusha—survivors of the atomic bomb—we met a year earlier, in Hiroshima: Isao Aratani (13 years old at the time of the bombing), Shoso Hirai (16 years old at the time), Sumiko Hirosawa (17 years old), Keiko Ogura (8 years), Keijiro Matsushima (16). In fact, it was a year ago today: August 6, 2011. Lisa and I were in Hiroshima for the 66th anniversary of the bombing. We had been there a week. It was our last day in the city, and our last night in Japan. It was also my birthday. I was turning 33. We spent an hour, in the early afternoon, with Isao, Shoso, Sumiko, Keiko and Keijiro, listening to their stories of that day, 66 years earlier. Their stories were fragmented, yet clear, and made of themselves an unfolding motion in the present. Listening to their stories, thinking about their stories and the experience of listening to them, I thought, These are not stories of the past, of August 6, 1945, but of today, this moment now. These are stories in the present tense. August 6 has not yet ended—in the way that a moment—catastrophic or otherwise arrested—releases itself across time, often through some kind of ritual space, imprinting an impression, or cloud—a shadow—by which the minds of the subsequent generations circumscribe that moment within a field of tremendous neglect, where it resides, against general thinking, which thinks otherwise, if at all. August 6 has not yet ended. Some of the hibakusha had shared their stories many times before. Some had only recently begun to share. They told their stories relatively straight, both in and out of time. I felt compelled to write down as much as I could, without taking my eyes off each of them. When their stories ended, we gathered in the front of the room. We moved our chairs close. We were invited to speak and ask questions. Whereas the hibakusha had told their stories in English, they answered our questions in Japanese. Having broke with the act of story-telling, their emotions became more evident. They each became more pensive, uncertain, and even more generous. Shoso Hirai began talking freely about his anger, something he did not express in his story. He talked about his hatred for the United States. In a room in the basement of the Peace Memorial Museum, we were listening. These were no longer stories, but responses within the unending day. Shoso came up to us later and shook both our hands, three times each. He apologized for his English, which we understood perfectly. His voice was majestic, wizened, drawn from the back of an ancient yet well-preserved instrument—the ribs of a bird, the neck of an insect. His vowels were pulled long. Know what has happened, do not forget, and at the same time never will you know. (Maurice Blanchot). Shoso’s face was taut, his arms were thin, he was a gentleman. Before the reading in Tokyo, I started to become nervous about reading the hibakusha testimonies I had transcribed. Three years earlier, in a small restaurant in Beirut, I read two poems to a small audience of Lebanese poets, including also a man who introduced himself as the “mayor” of southern Lebanon, near the border with Israel. The poems were made of, among other things, violence and death. Reading them in Beirut felt like putting them to the test, though I realized how reductive the thought was, how little I knew of the people there with me, the country around them, and, in fact, the inherent qualifications of the poems I had written. After the reading, one of the poets took us to a Communist bar in West Beirut. On our way, he pointed to an apartment building and said, I had a girlfriend who lived there. She died. When we asked how, he said, She was killed by a bomb. The Communist bar was unmarked, and had only two tables. When we entered, the bartender threatened to kill us—he had a rifle behind the bar—but loosened when he was assured we were poets. We stayed until morning, drinking and eating fruit the bartender pulled from a freezer. I turned 31 in Beirut. We swam in the Mediterranean. I was particularly conscious of the audience while reading the hibakusha testimonies in the tea room in Tokyo—which is to say, particularly conscious of myself, my body, my consciousness, vulnerably felt there before them. But, attempting to remain faithful to the impulse and the (ideally, hopefully) organic emergence of voices in the particular moment, as simultaneous with my own thoughts about them, used that self-consciousness as part of the truth and honesty of my nerves, frayed down the length of each line. It was a putting to the test. I have written often about the bombing of Hiroshima, sometimes explicitly, sometimes subliminally, and throughout have often wondered why, and how and whether it is going. There are stories, then we step outside the stories to address what and how it is we feel. We are not nations, after all, but curious and hungry, and as interested in what’s happening elsewhere. I turned 34 today. We are now in Tucson, Arizona. The desert. On the day my father turned 34, I was 3 years old. On the day my mother turned 34, I was 6. A few years ago, I asked my mom to write down everything she could remember about the day I was born. Her remembrance was fragmented, full of energy, and ended with the following lines: I don’t remember seeing you. I don’t even remember when I first saw you. When I read this I thought, That’s good, right? That means I’m still possible.