Alberta Clipper: 2/16/16: “It’s late, Miss China” by Emmanuel Moses

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Winter: Though it is cold and snowy and arguably the worst season of the year (admit it, the elation of sweater weather can only carry you for so long), winter paves the way for new beginnings. In Nebraska, this can be easy to forget. Especially in February, when the winds blister your skin and the slush in the streets is a brownish-black as dark as your soul at 7:30 a.m. on a Monday morning when it’s two degrees outside and the doors to your car are frozen shut. On February 16, 1943, the average temperature in Lincoln, Nebraska was 41 degrees. In Munich, Germany the average temperature was slightly less, dipping down into the thirties. But despite these bleak temperatures, the paths for new beginnings were being paved in Germany.

 On February 16, 1943, the words “Out with Hitler! Long live freedom!” were discovered on a Munich façade. These were the words of protest written by the non-violent resistance group the White Rose. The White Rose consisted of a group of students from the University of Munich known for their graffiti and leaflet campaigns protesting Nazi regime that lasted from June 1942 until February 18, 1943, when members of the White Rose were captured, tried, and executed on the grounds of treason.

In the 2009, Emmanuel Moses’ poem “It’s late, Miss China” appeared in the Winter issue of Prairie Schooner. Blending the seemingly mundane with the dark, “It’s late, Miss China” captures something eerie about life. It tames the elusive, making the fear destined to be felt in certain death read casual, predictable, familiar.—Tessa Lukesh


Emmanuel Moses
Translated by Marilyn Hacker
It’s late, Miss China

the cause of despair was
the effect of another despair

the erased world still pulsed
raindrops   ants
a world dreamed henceforth
across the snow


and after weeks of insomnia
the dream, at last

reeds   smoke
a soldier in rags


little gnat
in the grimy windowpane
my silence and my stillness
finally frighten you
and you fly away


the car’s headlights
coming through the fog
at full speed
interested him so much that

you can imagine what happens next (and last)

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 83, No. 4 (Winter, 2009)

The Alberta Clipper is a biweekly gust of history—brushing the dust off of a poem from our archives and situating it in the current events and local Nebraskan weather reports of days gone by. Explore the Alberta Clipper archives here.