Emanuel Moses

Second Elegy

The assassins had all gone back to barracks
their helmets remained, piled with the banners
as on the eve of a battle.

What are those shadows beneath the tree of life?
Holy women, swooning, faces bathed with tears,
your eyes reflect the last sunset’s gold
gone to lose itself in the last sea’s crevices.

Only an old man is left
to unfold the sheet
as smooth to the touch
as love between brothers and sisters
even those born to different fathers or different mothers.

A slow cortège emerges from the city gates
where houses are rose-colored, palaces snowy.
Night shrouds its movement
despite the torches brandished above the catafalque.
Ghostly horses
hooves wrapped in cloth to muffle the sound
pull the carriage surrounded by old soldiers.
The procession staggered under the oaks:
no one will return from this entombment.

Man of sorrows
you will bloom like the lily
you will triumph
liberating mystery
and the stone will have rolled away a hundred times
from the door to your tomb

The hook pulling the weeds
from the ploughshare
is what you will be
the stranger come to the shearing
is what you will be
the salt which dyes the colorless fabric
royal purple
is what you will be
bright line crossing the symbol-circle of flowers
is what you will be

— translated from the French by Marilyn Hacker