The last fare collector of Hiroshima

They found her fingers in a jelly of yen,
her skin one with the standard issue fare-bag –
a dove in a sen of silver to go to the mountains,
oh, if only she went. 

I have read of a woman
who cooled her burns with figs and persimmon.
She pared away old skin for years; it was the finest paper,
writing its kanji into the papyrus sky. I wish I knew her. 

In the ritual of tea-making,
I learnt how to sip from a widow’s eyes
and learn that some stories are like Hiroshima streetcars –
they always arrive on time then the hour takes them. 

They found her omen in the evening crow
hopping by the river: it is time to see how atoms rise
when another survivor dies;
their story closes with their eyelids. 

I have read of a God-fearing woman
who feared man so much more;
she sliced a cucumber each night for years to cool her skin
and hate had left her years ago with five generations of

by Antony Owen

Sen: Old Japanese coins. The sen was taken out of currency in 1953.

Poetry news! If you’re around St. Andrews or Edinburgh, catch our ignitionpress poets (Lily Blacksell, Mary Jean Chan and Patrick James Errington) today (Wednesday) and tomorrow as they launch their pamphlets in Scotland! Find more details on the St. Andrews reading here and the Edinburgh event here. You can buy their pamphlets here.

There are still a few places left for this Saturday’s one-day poetry workshop by ignitionpress editor and Oxford-based poet Alan Buckley. The workshop is entitled ‘First, are you our sort of person? – I, you, they and us’, and will explore how writing in the second and third person and first person plural can broaden our range as writers. Tickets are £45 (£40 for Brookes students and staff). To sign up, visit our website.

Sphinx Theatre will presents the award winning show ‘A Berlin Kabaret’, a vibrant presentation of lyrical anti-war songs, at the Old Fire Station, Oxford on 20 and 21 April. The show features previously undiscovered and newly translated poems by Bertolt Brecht and provocative new voices from Crisis Skylight writing workshops. There is more information on the OFS website.

Finally, John Hegley is in town this Saturday with his family-friendly show ‘All Hail the Snail’, and you can find more information about the event on the North Wall Arts Centre’s website.

‘The last fare collector of Hiroshima’ is copyright © Antony Owen, 2016. It is reprinted from The Nagasaki Elder (V. Press, 2016) by permission of V. Press.

Notes from V. Press:

Antony Owen was born in 1973 in Coventry, and raised by working class parents. The Nagasaki Elder is his fifth collection of poetry, jointly inspired by growing up in Cold War Britain at the peak of nuclear proliferation and, more recently, a self-funded trip to Hiroshima in 2015 to hear testimonies of Atomic bomb survivors. Owen’s war poetry and haiku have been translated into Japanese and Mandarin. In recognition of his 2015 peace trip to Hiroshima, CND Peace Education (UK) selected Owen as one of their first national patrons, and he won a Peace & Reconciliation award in 2016 for Community Cohesion from his home city of Coventry. The Nagasaki Elder was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry in 2017.

V. Press publishes poetry and flash fiction that is very very, with emphasis on quality over any particular style. Established with a launch at Ledbury Poetry Festival 2013 and shortlisted in The Michael Marks Publishers’ Award 2017, V. Press poetry knows what it wants to do and does it well. Find out more on the press’s website.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.