Patrick Cotter

Angels over Nagasaki

Patrick Cotter

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“Although the majority of Americans may be Protestants,

they are still Christians, which means that both the assailants

and victims pray to the same God.”

- Shōmei Tōmatsu

“Gallagher, who flew in the B-29 which dropped the A-bomb over Nagasaki, 

said his brother found it in rubble after the war and gave it to him as a memento.”

-Union of Catholic Asian News

After the bomb, a graveyard of angels

a flightless bevy - just heads and wings 

silicate heavy – Catholic gargoyles

with wavy long hair and long faces

with aquiline noses, none boxed flat

by Fat Man, its plutonium fission, 

its esurient airburst over a tennis court 

– love-forty-thousand, with a morel cloud 

as score-keeping umpire and a Charles 

Sweeney as mad as any Sweeney, mad 

all his life with no mercy for Sunday 

wafer-swallowing women, children, 

old men, none of whom had banzaid 

at sorrowful Nanking or Pearl Harbour.

A mad Sweeney with no need for a yew tree

to hoist him into darkness, to help him incinerate 

innocents for his God-trusting Protestant 

republic. Even to begin with, the angels,

they had no eyes, no pupils at least, no 

mirrors to their souls, no eyelashes to shed 

after fallout, no business for Rimmel 

or Maybelline, but still they could witness 

faces melt from the heads of the faithful. 

And for years they lay in their graveyard, 

scrabby grass struggling to stretch up between, 

waiting for a cathedral to resurrect, while, 

actually, one did lose face, was effaced 

– a sacrifice in solidarity with the losers 

of flesh, a left cheek all that remained 

after the Protestant Republic’s merciless 

flypast, picaroon-crewed half by Tadhgs, 

a Gallagher as well as Sweeney. One angel 

was lifted as a trophy, like a Byzantine lion 

pillaged by Venetian louts, contrabanded 

to Chicago. After forty years of fermenting 

remorse Gallagher dispatched her back, 

all five compact kilograms of her, 

with a Jesuit for a guardian and apologist.

Patrick Cotter

Patrick Cotter’s poems have appeared in the London Review of Books, Poetry (Chicago), Poetry Review, the Honest Ulsterman & elsewhere. He is a recipient of the Keats-Shelly Poetry Prize. Sonic White Poise, his third full collection was published in 2021 by Dedalus, Dublin. More at

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