Monday, February 17, 2020

Those trains in word problems -- who rides them?

    A Problem in a Math Book     by Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000)

     I remember a problem in a math book
     about a train that leaves from place A and another train
     that leaves from place B. When will they meet?
     And no one ever asked what happens when they meet:
     will they stop or pass each other by, or maybe collide?
     And none of the problems was about a man who leaves from place A
     and a woman who leaves from place B. When will they meet, 

     will they even meet at all, and for how long?
     And as for that math book: now I've reached
     the final pages with the Table of Answers.
     Back then it was forbidden to look.
     Now it's permitted. Now I check
     where I was right and where I went wrong,
     and know what I did well and what I didn't. Amen.

The work of Yehuda Amichai, an Israeli poet who wrote in Hebrew, has been translated into more than 40 languages and his words are celebrated worldwide.  Born in Germany, Amichai moved to Israel at the age of 12 -- he is considered (both at home and abroad) as Israel's greatest modern poet.
     The poem above, translated from the Hebrew by Chana Block and Chana Kronfeld, appeared in the September 1999 issue of Poetry Magazine -- and also is collected in the anthology Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics, edited by Glaz and Growney (AK Peters, 2008).
Another posting in this blog also features poetry by Amichai, available here.

No comments:

Post a Comment