The Writers We Carry: Agi Mishol

by Robert Hirschfield May 9, 2011

Agi Mishol. Photo by Iris Nesher.

The first in a new series that looks at the books and writers who inform our travels, Robert Hirschfield notes the place of Israeli Poet Agi Mishol in his ongoing narrative.

I TOOK HER BOOK when I visited my daughter in Virginia.

I take it with me on my walks to the river.

It will be the first thing I pack when I travel to Nepal this fall.

I see barbed wire rusting in your eyes
in the evening when your soul hollows
opposite the television console,
in your arms a small tuna salad
together with dry toast.

–from “Wax Flowers”

A Holocaust poem dedicated to her parents, Holocaust survivors, but a poem I can see myself reading among mountains. It rubs together something enormous with the meager rhythms of eating.

Mishol is round-faced and solid, sixty-four and blonde. She is like water that hides out in many wells. Her voices wrap themselves around my eyes from behind like the hands of an impulsive friend who can’t help herself.

In the middle of
I stand like a chicken
on the forks of my legs

–from “White Chicken”

At Union Station in Washington DC, waiting most of the afternoon for my train to Charlottesville, I attached myself to her poems: from her chicken embodying to being the fantasy wife of Stephen Hawking to finding herself in bed in Papua, New Guinea beside yet another husband of her imagination, the Portuguese ambassador.

words like Angola, Macau, Cochin and Nampula
sail past like wooden boats in his blood

–from Papua New Guinea

It is easy to travel with the wrong writer, or the wrong book. Years ago, I traveled around Belfast with Bruce Chatwin’s What Am I Doing Here. “You being funny?” people asked. In Kathmandu, with Agi, if I am asked about my Israeli, I will answer with a daft, bottomless grin and maybe roll my eyes a little.

Community Connection

Agi Mishol’s Wikipedia entry

Link to Agi Mishol’s only translated work in English, Look There (Graywolf Press)

Note on the series: Who are the writers you carry with you? Write about them. Submit work to

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