Friday, April 29, 2011

Forgetful Number

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
    Stayed outside

    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.

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