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The Diameter of the Bomb -- Yehuda Amichai

Guest poem sent in by Huat Chye Lim

The Yehuda Amichai poem from a couple of weeks ago [Poem #1437] reminded me of
another poem of his that I really like and isn't in your anthology:
(Poem #1448) The Diameter of the Bomb
 The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters
 and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,
 with four dead and eleven wounded.
 And around these, in a larger circle
 of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered
 and one graveyard. But the young woman
 who was buried in the city she came from,
 at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers,
 enlarges the circle considerably,
 and the solitary man mourning her death
 at the distant shores of a country far across the sea
 includes the entire world in the circle.
 And I won’t even mention the crying of orphans
 that reaches up to the throne of God and
 beyond, making
 a circle with no end and no God.
-- Yehuda Amichai
        (translated by Chana Bloch)

Amichai starts with a recitation of cold, technical facts about the bomb--its
diameter, its range, the number of casualties.  But then, unexpectedly and
rather jarringly, he segues into a personal sketch of one of the victims and
her grieving lover, "the solitary man mourning her death / at the distant
shores of a country far across the sea"--two lines I find especially poignant.
Amichai's conversational, somewhat detached tone ("And I won't even
mention...") throughout the poem serves almost as a foil to the raw emotional
loss that the bomb wreaked, and emphasizes it all the more.

Huat Chye Lim

44 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Anonymous said...

it is so beautiful it catches a jag in your thoat. More timely now with the release of the pentagon papers mk.2 and their pragmatic dispatches.

Melissa. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

Melissa. said...

An interesting note about the Hebrew... one of the many words for God is "no end," so the last line could be "a circle with God and with no God," equally "a circle with the infinite and the non-existent." The multi-faceted idea of "no end" in Hebrew makes the poem even deeper.

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fling away.
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scattered into May.
Let a cut and shave
reveal my grey hairs.
Let the silver of the years
ring out endlessly !
Shameful common sense -
I hope, I swear -
Will never come
to me.

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Thanks for the poem.
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