Annie Franklin teaches creative writing at Virginia State University, where she is a faculty advisor for The Virginia Normal. Her poetry has appeared in The Southern Review, Ninth Letter, The Journal, and elsewhere. Visit her website at:

Annie Franklin

My Sixth Grade Presentation on the Bombing of Hiroshima

My mother lays her hands across the edges

of the tri-fold board. They are already ruined 

with arthritis. I spray her fingers with black 

paint and leave empty the presence of her

pain as it was then. We mimic 

shadows the blast left of people: 

a man lounging on a bank’s steps, someone 

curled fetal, hiding. Her hands, my mother 

laughs, are perfect templates for terror. 

As a child, I had no capacity to understand 

how easily people can be erased, 

what suffering can mean. A child sees 

a shadow and does not know nor care 

of its source, even if the darkness is her 

own. For the history fair, I wrote of black rain, 

the number dead—all these shadows free 

from cause and effect, and so it became fantasy,

like a genie’s three wishes: 1. That I will one day 

survive when something spectacular 

slices open nature’s palm. 2. That we can all live 

forever happily, my shadow tattooed 

onto my mother’s. 3. That laughing about 

pain meant everything would be ok.