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by Emmanuel Moses
Translated from French by
Marilyn Hacker
Issue 30 Online Exclusive

Le monde est un arbre dont les feuilles s’appellent: désespoir. Comment respirer sous le feuillage: désespoir? Autant respirer de la cendre. Notre monde est un arbre dont les feuilles s’appellent: cendre. Le jour est cendre et la nuit est cendre. Le ciel est cendre et la terre est cendre, le soleil est cendre et la pluie est cendre. Le monde est un poisson-trompette qui proclame: désespoir! Qui proclame: cendre! Dont les écailles s’appellent: désespoir, dont les écailles s’appellent: cendre. Je suis couvert de cendre comme un arbre est couvert de feuilles. Le monde est un tas de désespoir. Je me couvre la tête de désespoir. L’arbre a reçu de Dieu le don de se couvrir de feuilles, non pas par honte de sa nudité originelle, mais pour que se voie le désespoir et que s’entende le vent du désespoir, pour que l’homme reçoive sur sa tête le soleil, la pluie, la lumière du ciel à travers la frondaison du désespoir, pour qu’il suffoque après avoir balbutié des sons incompréhensibles, les poumons remplis de cendre, de la lumière du jour et de la lumière de la nuit qui ne sont que cendre, cendre, cendre.

The world is a tree whose leaves are called: despair. How can you breathe under the foliage: despair? You might as well breathe ashes. Our world is a tree whose leaves are called: ashes. The day is ashes and the night is ashes. The sky is ashes and the earth is ashes, the sun is ashes and the rain is ashes. The world is a trumpetfish that proclaims: despair! That proclaims: ashes! Whose scales are called: despair, whose scales are called: ashes. I am covered with ashes the way a tree is covered with leaves. The world is a pile of despair. I cover my head with despair. God granted the tree the gift of covering itself with leaves, not out of shame at its original nakedness, but so that despair should be visible and the wind of despair audible, so that on the head of man would fall sun, rain, light through the foliage of despair, so that he would stifle after stuttering incomprehensible sounds, his lungs filled with ashes, with the light of day and the light of night which are only ashes, ashes, ashes.




Moses, Emmanuel. “Ashes” 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.