Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Two poems influenced by Helen Keller’s legacy

“The Sun is Warm: Nagasaki, 1948,” and “Dancing with Martha Graham” are from the poetry collection, “Love and Kumquats,” by Kathi Wolfe, courtesy of BrickHouse Books.

Helen Keller was in Nagasaki in 1948 in the aftermath of World War II and the atomic bomb. In “The Sun is Warm: Nagasaki, 1948,” I imagine what it was like when Keller met a scientist who was ravaged by the radiation from the atom bomb. Keller is speaking in the poem.

The Sun is Warm: Nagasaki, 1948

Talking with Mr. Nagai, a scientist,
at the corpse of the medical college,
I feel the bomb-blasted walls. Jagged
pipes, twisted girders, timbers, flakes
of smoked flesh cover the graveyard
that once trained healers. Twenty-four
teachers scorched, doctors decapitated,
patients incinerated. And they say
America won the War? I do not want
peace that passes understanding; I want
understanding that brings peace. Mr. Nagai,
I touch your singed, nearly skinless face.
I don’t have much time left, you say,
but I am well, for the sun is warm.

Helen Keller met the choreographer Martha Graham. Keller visited Graham’s studio. In my poem “Dancing with Martha Graham,” I imagine what Keller might have felt when she danced.

Dancing with Martha Graham

Flying is only for the gods, I think, until
you hold me so close your sweat becomes mine,
my sandals barely touch the ground,
my silk dress melts into your organza gown,
you twirl me like a pixelated top, and I fly
quick as Teletype, smooth as a martini
on a summer night, beyond sound,
beyond sight.



PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.