Yehuda Amichai


King Saul and I

Translated by Rachel Sauer


They have given him a finger;
he took the whole hand.
They had given me a hand,
I haven’t taken even the small finger.

While my heart was still weightlifting
its first loves,
he trained already tearing up oxen.
My pulse sounds like drops from a tap,
his like big hammers at the site of a new building.
He always is my big brother,
I have to wear his worn clothes.


He went out to find his asses
and found a kingdom.
I have found them:
they grin at me with yellow teeth.
I don’t know how to treat them.
They kick me.


I am tired.
My bed is my kingdom.

My sleep is my right.
My dream is my verdict.

I have hung my clothes
on a chair, for tomorrow.
He has hung his kingdom
in a golden frame of wrath
on the heavens’ wall.

My arms are too short,
like a string too short to make a parcel.

His arms are iron chains in a harbour
for a long journey beyond time.

He is a dead king.
I am a tired man.

Notes on this poem

Reproduced by permission of Hana Amichai.