Poetry Friday & Today’s Math Problem

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It’s Poetry Friday! Paul at These 4 Corners is hosting.

I’ve been thinking about this poem all week, inspired by friends who have been working for two years to adopt a teenaged Ukrainian orphan, Julia. They were very close to finishing the process when the recent conflict between Russia and the Ukraine began. Then they had to start over! Julia will age out of the orphanage, and like many, have nowhere to go. This week, our friends have been in Ukraine, meeting officials, filing paperwork, taking long train rides through snow-covered expanses, and getting to spend a few brief moments with their future daughter at the orphanage.

I’ve been praying so hard for them this week! I was incredulous that the process required the transfer of a file of paper documents between people 14 hours apart — a transfer accomplished by hand, not mail or scanned and sent via email. I thought of all the movie plot lines involving items gone astray, and the lives forever changed. I hope sweet Julia will soon be flying to Tennessee!

This poem is told from the point of view of what I imagined one of Julia’s siblings might be thinking.

Photo by Artem Bondarenko, who is helping my friends while they're in Ukraine.
Photo by Artem Bondarenko, who is helping my friends while they’re in Ukraine.


Today’s Math Problem

by Keri Collins Lewis


While armies churn toward each other,

and pristine snow turns to sludge,

if two Ukrainian government officials

in towns 14 hours apart

each leave their offices today at 8 a.m.

(on their side of world)


to catch trains

to meet halfway

to transfer a single file

to secure the future of an orphan,


at what time

(on my side of the world)

will my dream of a new sister

finally come true?

Author: Keri

10 thoughts on “Poetry Friday & Today’s Math Problem

  1. Wow, Keri. I like the way you took something like a mundane math problem and turned it into a touching real-life question. I hope Julia will not be at the mercy of bureaucracy for much longer!

    1. Thank you! My understanding today is that one of the officials couldn’t leave to deliver the file — he was prevented by members of the military sharing the building. He was told it wasn’t safe for him to go anywhere. 🙁

    1. Thanks, Jama! Their journey really put my daily annoyances into perspective! We are far more blessed than we realize.

  2. Your poem really touched my heart. I got a little teary. For me the power is in the contrast of a mundane math problem and things like papers and train schedules, juxtaposed with a dream.

    Lots of good wishes to the new family–may their dreams come true soon.

  3. This is a powerful poem. How appropriate that the young speaker remaining at home with daily math problems to solve should imprint the dream on a most touching word problem. I’m sure it is the most meaningful word problem ever written.

  4. You’ve got us all weeping, Keri. I suppose that’s not bad, is it? Your first two lines really set the scene. Why do we, as humans, continue to fight? It seems to me, no matter the outcome, all parties lose.

    1. Thanks, Diane, for the compliment. The military delivered the folder of documents and now they are waiting for a court date. My understanding is the court location is near the fighting, so they’re trying to speed up the court date in hopes they’ll get done and get out of Dodge.

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