A lovely poem about more than a number . . .
Forgetful Number by Vasko Popa
Once upon a time there was a number
Pure and round like the sun
But lonely very lonely
It started to calculate by itself
It divided it multiplied
Subtracted and added itself
But remained always alone
It stopped calculating
And shut itself away
In its rounded sunlit innocence
The flowing tracks of its calculations
They began to hunt each other in the dark
To divide themselves while multiplying
To subtract themselves while adding
That's the way it goes in the dark
No one was left to plead to it
To call back its tracks
And rub them out
Vasko Popa (1922-1991) was a well-known Yugoslav poet; this translation, "Forgetful Number," is by Charles Simic and is taken from The Horse Has Six Legs: An Anthology of Serbian Poetry -- reissued in 2010 by Graywolf Press and used here with their permission.
On October 29, 2010 Simic's poem "Ghost Stories in Algebra" was posted.