Zeah

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  • Published : February 22, 2013
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Text: Sarah Kay “Hiroshima”; originally performed at the TED Conference, March 2011

When they bombed Hiroshima, the explosion formed a mini-supernova, so every living animal, human or plant that received direct contact with the rays from that sun was instantly turned to ash.

And what was left of the city soon followed. The long-lasting damage of nuclear radiation caused an entire city and its population to turn into powder.

When I was born, my mom says I looked around the whole hospital room with a stare that said, “This? I’ve done this before.”

She says I have old eyes. When my Grandpa Genji died, I was only five years old, but I took my mom by the hand and told her, “Don’t worry, he’ll come back as a baby.” And yet, for someone who’s apparently done this already, I still haven’t figured anything out yet.

My knees still buckle every time I get on a stage.

My self-confidence can be measured out in teaspoons mixed into my poetry, and it still always tastes funny in my mouth.

But in Hiroshima, some people were wiped clean away, leaving only a wristwatch or a diary page. So no matter that I have inhibitions to fill all my pockets, I keep trying, hoping that one day I’ll write a poem I can be proud to let sit in a museum exhibit as the only proof I existed.

My parents named me Sarah, which is a biblical name. In the original story God told Sarah she could do something impossible and she laughed, because the first Sarah, she didn’t know what to do with impossible.

And me? Well, neither do I, but I see the impossible every day. Impossible is trying to connect in this world, trying to hold onto others while things are blowing up around you, knowing that while you’re speaking, they aren’t just waiting for their turn to talk — they hear you.

They feel exactly what you feel at the same time that you feel it. It’s what I strive for every time I open my mouth — that impossible connection.

There’s this piece of wall in Hiroshima that was...
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