I plunge into the cold water on that warm July day
no goggles, only the loose-fitting swimming trunks
I swim through the blur of chlorine
pushing through the water
when a familiar tune I heard hours earlier traps itself in my brain
and I suddenly become weightless, a plane high above in the air
The water is pure blue sky, below me the clouds
And at the bottom the city in ruins
I take my plane and dive down below the clouds
past the blur, until the city is in view just below me
I level the bomber and let it soar low above the ground
Over the pale white shells of buildings
I remember the museum exhibit that inspires this flight
I walk through, studying the pictures and the uniforms and the weapons on display
when in the distance of the room beyond I hear the familiar tune:
Brian Eno's "Ascent (An Ending)". It brings me closer, and I move past the exhibits
at a quickening pace, past the slow browsers
glancing only briefly to read, to catch a glimpse of an object, a photo, a map
I keep going, "Ascent" on a loop, its minimalist beauty entrancing me
until I find a large television in a small corner.
A few people are gathered around, solemn,
the television entrancing them, the music washing over the room.
First the white words centered against the black screen: "The Bomb".
The come the white-and-black photos and footage of the mushroom clouds hovering above Hiroshima, then Nagasaki,
standing tall like ungainly trees in an empty field.
The soundtrack to the short video before me is "Ascent",
or rather an excerpt, a piece of it, stirring strange emotions
Familiar ones that I give attribution to when I listen to it on my own.
Yet it feels different coming from this;
on the screen a few photographs of corpses and burnt victims flash by.
And then the screen fades to black, a moment of silence
before it all starts again
I hear this loop and see these images before me as I fly above
the imagined city in ruins
And for a brief moment I am the Enola Gay;
I will only know it at the bottom of a hotel pool
I was inspired to write the rough draft of this in the afternoon after I took a swim. Earlier in the day, my father and I went to the National WWII museum in New Orleans, and I came across the exhibit that I first saw as a child and which had the most profound effect on me.