Lines / Today I'm Ready

Forty years ago I'd have said:

The engineer who builds a bridge

is more important than the poet.

Today I'm ready to admit

that my poems, or some, at least,

are bridges. Just a few days ago

I saw a girl, a child almost, wearing jeans -

pants with holes ripped at salient spots -

walking on one of the bridges, I mean

poems. I knew the poem. Not

the girl. I looked at her face. She was

concentrating and I was tempted

to breathe into a rip or stick my finger

in and tickle her. I contained myself,

straining to remember where she'd get to

if she kept walking. But I couldn't.

In the end, step by step my imagination removed

her sandals and I felt her bare feet treading on me, thus shaking off dust

gathered in me as though

on a book long left lying on a rejected shelf.

Translated by Vivian Eden. Aryeh Sivan is the 2010 Israel Prize Laureate for Poetry. Born Aryeh Bomstein in Tel Aviv in 1929, Sivan is his pen-name. He fought in the Palmach in the War of Independence, studied Hebrew language and literature at the Hebrew University, worked as a high school teacher of literature and has published 14 collections of poetry and a novel. In an interview with Haaretz (April 19, 2010 ), Sivan was asked for whom he writes his poems. The answer - which is also reflected in the poem above: "Whoever comes across my poems. I write out of inner pressure to write something. I don't think about whom it will reach and whom it will please, or whom it will curry favor with. Writing is an inner act of the writer ... The writing itself is what gives me satisfaction."