Poet­ry

Years I Walked at Your Side: Select­ed Poems

Mordechai Geld­man, trans. Tsipi Keller

December 18, 2018

Years I walked at your side
like our prophet Isaiah
bare­foot naked and bare
I will put on no cover
until you see me
until you rec­og­nize an other
one person
at least
and so know your­self as well


Mordechai Geld­man came of age as a poet in the sev­en­ties, an aus­pi­cious and trans­for­ma­tive time in the devel­op­ment of mod­ern Hebrew lit­er­a­ture, as poets and writ­ers reject­ed the flow­ery, the hyper­bol­ic, and the sen­ti­men­tal and opt­ed instead for a more direct and inti­mate speech. While his ear­ly poems tend­ed to rely on lin­guis­tic explo­ration, his vision soon turned inward, as he came to favor the sim­ple, the true, the authen­tic. Geldman’s poems are direct and acces­si­ble, touch­ing on and reveal­ing the divine and the sacred in the so-called mundane.

Discussion Questions

Mordechai Geldman’s poems are rev­e­la­to­ry, a self-inves­ti­ga­tion in which every­thing is inter­con­nect­ed: his child­hood, his sex­u­al iden­ti­ty, Judaism, Zen Bud­dhism, psy­cho­analy­sis, beau­ty, phys­i­cal desire, and poet­ry. In this soar­ing com­pendi­um of won­der­ful­ly trans­lat­ed poems, Geld­man, now in his sev­en­ties, con­sid­ers the cal­cu­lus of his life. In I Don’t Know” he writes:

I don’t know/​what I will be singing at the end
and if I will be singing at the end/​I don’t know
what I will be miss­ing at the end

and else­where he writes:

but bet­ter than a poem is a blind cat
who sur­vives in the streets among odors and sounds
and endows me with sev­en souls