Emmanuel Moses is a master of suggestion, evoking images, feelings and ideas while he submerges history, literature, mythology and politics within each poem (presented in French and English) to focus on intention and multiple-layered interpretations. So in “Dunkerque. In the Early Morning Fog,” we read, “Several voices discuss the danger of the crossing,/-The sea is riddled with mines since the last war — /Shadows of hands stir,/The one obsessed with kilometers shouts louder than the others/( Time pause) there are several answers to the only question…” Again, the past pervades the present in XXXVI from “The Year of the Dragon,” as the author notes how he served as postman during the war of Yom Kippur and watched the processions during Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem, “…So much for my memories. I can’t serve as witness for anything else. I didn’t even see my grandmother die. I thought that she was still breathing under the sheet,/And her coffin was like a suitcase/Where someone hides to cross the border/Without being seen.” A short poem, “The Inn,” best captures the essence of E. Moses’ ruminations, “…Suffering comes from elsewhere, what matter if it is reflected/in each word/he has learned a certain number of/things,/helped by aging,/notably that it’s necessary to love/who’s with us, who goes before/and awaits us,/seated at the nocturnal inn.” Like studying a fine painting or relishing a culinary delight, the reader needs to savor these poems repeatedly to receive their full atmosphere and flavor. Such appreciation eventually belies the complexity that initially confuses and then disappears, as in “Passions and Lions,” where the author shows us how to read a poem, “…I’d trace it with my finger/and with eyes half closed she’d wait until I got over it/because our time was done.”
Deborah Schoeneman, is a former English teacher/Writing Across the Curriculum Center Coordinator at North Shore Hebrew Academy High School and coeditor of Modern American Literature: A Library of Literary Criticism, Vol. VI, published in 1997.