Mordechai GELDMAN (Israel)

Mordechai GELDMAN (Israel)

Mordechai Geldman was born in Munich to Polish parents who had survived the Holocaust. His family immigrated to Israel in 1949 and settled in Tel Aviv, where he has lived ever since. Geldman studied World Literature and Clinical Psychology and works as a psychotherapist using psychoanalytical methods.

Geldman, has begun publishing poetry in 1966. His poetry is philosophical, psychological, and existential. It combines literary Hebrew and everyday language, even some slang. His later poetry tends to be meditative and includes many haiku. He was influenced by Zen Buddhist esthetics and philosophy. His poetry sings with many voices – lyrical, philosophical, sensual, erotic, religious, ironic and others. A sober mind integrates all these aspects of his personality.

 He has published 18 poetry books, a book of short stories and 6 non-fiction books. A two volume collection of poems from his books was published in 2011. His last poetry book  is the third volume of the collection of his poetry written till 2019  His poems were translated into many languages: Chinese and Japanese included. His book “Becoming One” was translated to Portuguese (“Teoria Do Um”) and published in Portugal on 2017. A large collection of his poems in English “Years I Walked at Your Side” was published on 2018  in Suny Press, State University of N.Y.

His non-fiction books deal with subjects as the self in psychoanalytic theories and in Yoga and Buddhism, psychoanalytic interpretation of literature, doubles and symmetries in Shakespeare’s plays, his favorite Israeli poets and artists, etc.

As a visual artist Geldman is engaged in painting, ceramics and photography. Geldman was an art critic for the Israeli daily Haaretz, and curated exhibitions for many Israeli artists.

Awards:  the Prime Minister Prize; the Brenner Prize for literature; the Amichai Prize; the Bialik Prize for Literature.

 

Voice

What is his true voice?

Have words wrapped him
in murmurs
in forms
in worn-out constructs that came before him?
“Person” described him
better than “frog”
but the croaking of frogs in the night’s ponds
or the whistle of birds at dusk
or the sound of fruit dropping to the ground
drew him out better than Hebrew
as Being revealed itself to him in its fullness

And at moments of imposed openness
when fatigue dissolved his inhibitions
Yiddish melodies floated up in his mind
songs of mournful wisdoms
of a cursed chosen people of God
tunes of an exiled truth
and suffering and the rolling of the dead

And at times other voices
voices of others
snuck surreptitiously into his secret cave
echoed in his voice and from within
infecting his voice with alienation
alien voices echoed in his voice, simulating his voice
his voice at times getting lost in simulation

But was it really simulation
was there really a voice that was not his voice
as it used his mouth, his palate, his tongue, his teeth
in order to set forth in the world
out into a vastness of odd-looking funnels

And wasn’t his voice muddled up
when adjusted to the auditory frequency of listeners
who had no intention to listen
and certainly never made the effort
and in fact never could

A suspicion played in him
annulling any pure sound
true like the roar of a river
virginal like the note of a reed
that has just been pulled from the edge of the swamp
or cruel and desirous like the wail of prairie wolves

But always an intense pain
an absolute final truth
whose voice was a scream or a shout
a voice distilled of dross
a voice of pure pain
pure voice of pain
four final words
and the chorusing of wasps
in landfills

*Refers to the belief that when the Messiah arrives, Jews who had died in the Diaspora would roll under their graves, through tunnels and caves, to Israel for the Resurrection

 

Water

Narcissus didn’t fall in love with his image
but with water
for its divine mysterious ability to reflect his image
and the overhanging tree branches
and the ever changing skies
and the herds of drifting clouds
water has endowed those reflected
with magnificent doubles glowing as if anointed
and with holy moments of eternity
until dusk came and darkness

The charms of water so enthralled him
that he preferred the reflections over the reflected
every day he swam in the sky
among clouds among tree branches
his soul seeking to be like water
and like it to contain the entire cosmos
and become the form of many

His studies of reflections
initiated investigations that others pursued
even after he turned
into a flower a frog and a worm
perhaps even a tear or a puddle

From the investigations rose the foundations of our culture:
the looking-glass, painting, and the camera

 

An Ecological Poem

In the green and generous moment
the greenery’s green intensified
as the dense shrubbery of the stream
was reflected quivering in the water
and the air was warm
holding a stillness
in which a chorus of birds trilled
and even the flutter of their wings was heard
and even the darting of the fish
was heard from a distance
while hum and rustle played in warm hush

And at the same green and generous moment
my essence folded into the landscape
and I became a branch poised over water
I became a young and slick water turtle
and even a flock of green parakeets
and willingly gave up my remains
for the feast of worms, insects and birds of prey
who rapaciously devoured its flesh
and I considered with serenity
the empty bench
that will wait here for another poet
if evolution will allow for poets

 

Streams

Our dinghy sailed upon sweet waters
that flowed pure from a wondrous source
father paddled the oars
mother shuddered with the dinghy’s jolts
and I lived in certainty
a boy who has parents
father and mother were my parents
I had a source
we sailed in the dinghy together
“sail on sail on my dinghi*”

Later I despaired and drowned
I became a water child
an orphan living in the depths of the stream
with the other water kids
among intelligent and silent fish
amazing daffodils
transparent multi-legged crabs
and innumerable reflections
upside down worlds doubled and multiplied
a trap of a maze allowing no escape

 

Slowly

Slowly slowly slowly
bring yourself over to slowness
and behold the core of the hidden
due to speed and acceleration

The shaded stream
seems desolate and grim
the oily green glass of the water
empty
as the water birds
gather in the distance
where a kind Russian boy
scatters crumbs

But after I’ve given myself over
to foliage and greenery
to the flickering world of dark green
the gaping mouths of fish
surfaced for an instant
from the water and vanished
diving back
into their secret activities in the depths
leaving behind ripples
tiny and quiet green circles
that keep expanding evermore
until they’re gone

And a beige eucalyptus leaf
slowly dropped
from a eucalyptus branch
leaning over the still green surface
and it contained all of death
if with great calm

And a white butterfly gracefully flew by
and offered the soul its form
embodying the miracle of life

and a flash

* From a children’s song

 

Translated by Tsipi Keller

Photograph: Gadi Dagon

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