Love and Strange Horses—Intima’

By Nathalie Handal b. 1969 Nathalie Handal
One hundred breaths split the air
as I lean
on the only pine tree I find.
It’s early or late, it’s breezy or hot.
The fields are dry. Summer is near.
The horses are everywhere,
strangely galloping a dream,
but I can’t remember
how to call them,
so I stand back, watch them pass.
The first time I rode a horse
my body found the music of fire,
crackling the wind. An unbearable pleasure
that also left me with a burn on the side of my leg.
A sign, the horsekeeper told me, of longing.
A need to return—to belong.
After all, departure is like
pushing the weight of our heart
against the village
whose name has kept us awake.
Rafael came from somewhere in Eurasia.
I passed my hands through his mane—
saw a history of conquests and battles,
a field of hay, a mount of truth,
heard a silent ring,
his eyes asking me to go with him,
to confess something sacred,
to name something lustful.
Nothing of where he came from,
or who I was, disturbed us.
I knew he was different by the way he ran—
without pause,
without grace,
without distraction,
without ease.
He was told how to move in the world
and resented it.
He knew he would never own anything.
He came toward me.
It was a quiet afternoon.
I stood unmoving.
And we listened to the untitled music
circling the earth like an anthem
free of its nation.
He was unfamiliar to me,
approaching as if he possessed the land.
Every morning he stopped five feet
from the river.

Nathalie Handal, “Love and Strange Horses—Intima’” from Love and Strange Horses. Copyright © 2010 by Nathalie Handal. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Reprinted by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.

Source: Love and Strange Horses (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010)

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Poet Nathalie Handal b. 1969

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Activities, Sports & Outdoor Activities, Relationships, Pets, Nature, Animals, Social Commentaries, Town & Country Life

Poetic Terms Free Verse


French-American poet, playwright, translator, and editor Nathalie Handal is originally of a Palestinian family from Bethlehem. She has lived in Europe, Latin America, the Arab world, and the United States. Handal earned an MFA in poetry from Bennington College and an MPhil in drama and English from the University of London. She is the author of the poetry collections The Neverfield (1999); The Lives of Rain (2005); and Love and . . .

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SUBJECT Activities, Sports & Outdoor Activities, Relationships, Pets, Nature, Animals, Social Commentaries, Town & Country Life

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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