Mois Benarroch in his poem “I can see you” relived the scary moments as a child in 1972 of having to flee from a country he loved, and do all the frightening things that change brings about. He attended school for a week and cried for a week then changed schools, and he was pushed into a higher grade by an anxious mother. Moshe wanted to go slowly, but he completed school early and had to mark time for a year. He later tried on different lifestyles, religions, no religion and relied on music and writing for salvation, and then his writing became paramount. When Mois travels, he feels relief from the death and destruction in modern Israel and on his return laments “so close to the land of Israel, so far from the State of Israel.”
Mois was born in Morocco and emigrated to Israel to live near the Zikhron-Yaacov. He writes in his native Spanish, and English and Hebrew. If a person is born with the soul of a poet, that person will write poetry, perhaps for themselves, but also probably for the world, as Mois does. He writes of his life, politics, love, immigration, poetry and we are the gratefully, fortunate recipients of The Immigrant’s Lament.
Mois writes in a free verse style, like other 20th-century poets; this allows his poetry to be read easily. Combined with the titles to his poems, you can sit back and enjoy each poetic journey he elects to take you on. It seems that in poetry you can speak your mind and say things that cannot be said in conversation. As in the poem “Can a poem help”,” he is asking – when you are you, and I am me, and there is no magic any more, can a poem make it better?
In this outstanding book of poetry, The Immigrant’s Lament, Mois Benarroch recalls leaving his phenomenal social life in Morocco to come to a nothing life in Israel. How many immigrants with minds full of dreams find reality more like a nightmare? Mois appreciates that when you embrace an alternative country, you are bound to the old even as you try to assimilate the new and often become not one thing or the other, but a hybrid. Mois feels like he is “Moroccan, Spanish, Sephardi, European, looks Ashkenazi, Western, Eastern, Mediterranean, Middle-eastern, Palestinian, African, and French”,” a-melting-pot-man.
He composes funny poems, as in a family story about Grandfather Moshe who is leaving for Argentina for work for six months, but after Grandmother and Great-Grandmother cry and say he will never return, he drops his suitcase and decides to stay. Mois says that is how he wasn’t born in Argentina. In “Where is My House Now.” Mois suggests it is ironic that an Arab lives in Mois’s house and Mois lives in an Arab’s house, and perhaps the Arab writes poetry? I think the saddest poem in the book is “My poems.” Mois says: “I am tired of peace agreements I just want to see less people dead.”
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars because the poetry is human, crying out for understanding, authentic and poignant. I do not rate it 3 out of 4 stars because it has a message for every immigrant. I did detect a few misused words, but this does not detract from a work of art. I recommend the book to immigrants, people who travel, people who love poetry, politicians who can exercise common sense to heal this world and religious leaders who can secure peace. A book of poetry can always be read one poem at a time, so many people might pick this book up and enjoy a single gem.