Poetry Month

‘The Diameter of the Bomb’

Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai on the horrors of war.

'The Diameter of the Bomb'

April is National Poetry Month, and we’re celebrating by featuring examples of “civic” poetry from new and familiar voices. Throughout the month we’ll be discussing what it means to be civic through the art of words. Join us on Twitter at #civicpoetry.

Poet Jim Haba chose some of his favorite “civic poems” for us. Read his essay “Reflections on Poetry and on Civic Poetry, in Particular.”



The Diameter of the Bomb

The diameter of the bomb was 30 centimeters
and the diameter of its effective range about 7 meters,
with four dead and 11 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.

Reprinted with permission of The University of California Press.

This project was co-curated by the journalism nonprofit the Economic Hardship Reporting Project and its Puffin Story Innovation Fund.

Yehuda Amichai

Yehuda Amichai was born in Wurzburg, Germany, on May 3, 1924 and emigrated with his family to Palestine in 1936. He later became a naturalized Israeli citizen. Although German was his native language, Amichai read Hebrew fluently by the time he moved to Palestine. He served in the Jewish Brigade of the British Army in World War II and fought with the Israeli defense forces in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Following the war, he attended Hebrew University to study biblical texts and Hebrew literature, and then taught in secondary schools. Amichai published 11 volumes of poetry in Hebrew, two novels, and a book of short stories. His work has been translated into 37 languages. In 1982, Amichai received the Israel Prize for Poetry and became a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1986. He lived in Jerusalem until his death on Sept. 25, 2000.