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“A woman put her suitcase down” from Polonaise

"Une femme posa sa valise par terre"
by Emmanuel Moses
Translated from French by
Marilyn Hacker
Issue 30 Online Exclusive

Une femme posa sa valise par terre et dit: “Si mon mari ne m’avait pas quittée, comme ça, sans un mot d’explication, alors que je l’aimais et que je pensais que lui m’aimait aussi, que j’aimais les jours avec lui et les nuits avec lui, comme ça, en une minute de temps, je ne serais jamais partie. Je n’aurais pas entrepris ce voyage qui me mènera Dieu sait où. Moi, je ne le sais vraiment pas.”

Une autre femme posa sa valise par terre et dit: “À la mort de ma mère, je me suis retrouvée toute seule. Je ne voulais pas rester dans la maison où nous avions vécu ensemble, heureuses, à broder, prier, cuisiner, bavarder et parfois regarder la télévision. Alors j’ai fermé la porte à double tour et je suis montée dans le premier train qui est passé. Et me voilà. Là où il m’a déposée. À son terminus.”

Une troisième femme posa sa valise par terre et dit: “J’ai fait un rêve. Je remplissais une cruche d’eau et j’allais la porter aux mendiants assis devant les murailles d’une ville très ancienne. Je me suis réveillée et j’ai compris que je devais aller désaltérer ceux qui ont soif. J’ai dit adieu aux miens et j’ai pris la route. J’ai marché longtemps. Demain je repartirai.”

A woman put her suitcase down on the ground and said: “If my husband hadn’t left me, just like that, without a word of explanation, when I loved him and I thought he loved me too, when I loved the days with him and the nights with him, like that, in a minute, I would never have traveled. I would not have undertaken this journey that will lead me, maybe God knows where—as for me, I don’t know.”

Another woman put her suitcase down and said: “When my mother died, I found myself all alone. I didn’t want to stay in the house where we had lived together, happily—embroidering, praying, cooking, talking, sometimes we watched television. So I closed the door, double-locked it and got on the first train passing by. And here I am. Here where it set me down.”

A third woman put her suitcase down on the ground and said: “I had a dream. I was filling a pitcher with water and then I went to bring it to the beggars sitting outside the walls of an ancient city. I woke up and understood I that I had to go and quench the thirst of all who are thirsty. I said farewell to my family and took to the road. I walked for a long time. Tomorrow I will set off again.”




Moses, Emmanuel. “A woman put her suitcase down” from Polonaise. Paris: Flammarion, 2017

Emmanuel Moses was born in Casablanca in 1959. He spent his childhood in France, lived in Israel for fifteen years, and then returned to Paris. He is the author of fifteen collections of poems, most recently Polonaise (Flammarion, 2017), and Dieu est à l’arrêt du tram (Gallimard, 2017), and of nine novels and prose texts. He is a past recipient of the Prix Max Jacob and a Prix de poésie de l’Académie Française. He is also a translator of contemporary Hebrew fiction and poetry, notably of Yehuda Amichai.
Marilyn Hacker is the author of thirteen books of poems, including A Stranger’s Mirror (Norton, 2015)  Names (Norton, 2010) ,and Desesperanto (Norton, 2003) ,an essay collection, Unauthorized Voices ( Michigan, 2010), and fourteen collections of translations of French and Francophone poets including  Emmanuel Moses, Marie Etienne, Vénus Khoury-Ghata, Habib Tengour and Rachida Madani. DiaspoRenga,   a collaborative sequence written with  Deema Shehabi, was published in 2014. Her awards include the Lenore Marshall Prize in 1995 for Winter Numbers , two Lambda Literary Awards, the 2009 American PEN award for poetry in translation, the 2010 PEN Voelcker Award and the international Argana Prize for Poetry from the Beit as-Sh’ir/ House of Poetry in Morocco in 2011. She lives in Paris.