Yehuda Amichai

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How would you briefly summarize the poem "The Diameter of the Bomb" written by Yehuda Amichai?

"The Diameter of the Bomb" by Yehuda Amichai describes a bomb with a diameter of thirty centimeters creating circles of destruction that eventually encompass all of earth and heaven.

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Yehuda Amichai's poem "The Diameter of the Bomb" begins by simply giving the physical diameter of the explosive device, which is thirty centimeters. The poet then delineates expanding circles, the effective range, within which four people have been killed and eleven wounded, then a wider ambit, containing the hospitals where they were treated and the graveyards where the dead were buried.

The next circle is much wider, since it must encompass the hometown of a young woman who was taken back there to be buried. Finally, the man who is mourning her in another country far away extends the circle of the bomb's influence around the whole world. In the last three lines, the poet creates an image of children orphaned by the bomb crying, and their cries reaching up to and past the throne of God, "making a circle with no end and no God." The circle of the bomb's influence has reached heaven and found it empty, or perhaps made it so.

The central image of this poem is like that of a stone thrown into water. A small device that can be held in the hand creates waves of misery capable of crossing the world and even destroying God, for whom there is no longer any place in the heavens.

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"The Diameter of the Bomb" uses the repeated image of a circle to represent the widening arc that the bomb effects. The poem begins with a precise mathematical calculation of the bomb's diameter--"seven centimeters"--and then the poem's reach gets ever-wider. The range of the bomb is "seven meters," and it causes the deaths of four people and the injuries of 11. Moving further from the blast site, there are two hospitals that likely ministered to the injured or dead and a graveyard.

The second part of the poem concentrates on one young woman who was likely injured by the bomb and buried in the city. However, her arc of influence reaches further to a "solitary man" who grieves for her in "distant shores." Her death has widened the bomb's reach. Finally, the poet says he "won't even mention" (though he does) the orphans whose cries reach God, even though the poet says there is "no God" in the last line of the poem. These ever-widening literal and figurative circles and the repetition of the image of the circle express the endless pain the bomb has caused. 

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The poem “The Diameter of the Bomb” written by Yehuda Amichai is a commentary on the extensive sorrow that war causes. War is channeled down to one of its destructive elements in this poem - a "bomb." The big topic or grand theme of War is brought to light by examining closely what one of the implements or tools of war can do.

Therefore, Yehuda Amichai ponders a mechanical object, a bomb, and how it touches individual lives and society as a whole. He begins by giving the reader the bomb’s diameter and the “diameter of its effective range.” This is a matter-of-fact almost reportorial description of the bomb. This description is akin to a student learning about the characteristics of a bomb in an engineering class or something like that. This description is void of emotion or preaching.

However, the power of this poem is not in the physical description of the actual bomb. The poem’s power is in how the poet describes the lives affected by the horrific force of the bomb.

He talks of hospitals, a graveyard, a dead woman, and one who is mourning the death of the women. Many lives are touched by this bomb and the havoc and pain it has wreaked on the earth.

In addition, the poem talks of orphans. Children are left fatherless and motherless due to war. This travesty can make one ask where God is in times like this. The poet talks of God’s throne and also what he perceives as no answers from God. Nonetheless, it is man who is responsible for his own terrible actions against man.

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Amichai begins the poem with a somewhat cold, but just mechanical description of the bomb. It is the scientist explaining something as a machine, the effect of its radius and the statistics of the people killed. The poem begins as if a government or bomb maker is assessing the effectiveness of the device. So, this is a clinical beginning; devoid of human compassion. The suffering is secondary to the analysis of the bomb.

Then the poem segues from statistical analysis to human compassion. A man grieves for a woman “in a far corner of a distant country.” The effect on humanity reaches a much larger radius than the explosion of the bomb itself. The bomb’s radius was seven meters. But it affected a man in another country. This violence “includes the whole world in the circle” and reaches the “throne of God.”

This is an effective juxtaposition of a dispassionate view of the physical capacity of the bomb with the much larger emotional and spiritual impact of such violence. The bomb may only have a diameter of seven meters but its mental impact reaches the entire world and God. The human/spiritual diameter spans a "circle without end."

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