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Death is careless at times. It confuses love with a wet afternoon in an empty
room. The unpainted walls a reminder of how sex can resemble poverty. A
hollow cry. An open mouth falling inside as you sleep. I prepare my heart
and language with better words, like worlds in small selves I've built. Every
month, one dollar buys me one brick. But how many bricks does it take to
build a house? A stray dog barks late at night. I can't see him but know he's
there. He reminds me that here, dreams have dangerous turns. I turn
around to no one naked beside me. I play it safe not to see the fire in my
hands. But let us be clear: I'm no beggar. It's just that there are times when
the world is a sound that cripples the air, and the soul. When what seems
arranged — glazing and strange, like music played on tin cans — turns into
wilting noise. When suddenly, all that exists is a small boy trying to focus
on the pain lifting a nation. A telephone call: He was wearing black shoes, a
Calvin Klein T-shirt that he found in a hotel trash, brown slacks. She was
wearing one earring on her right ear, one sock on her left foot, a dress the
color of sky. She bought him a canne à sucre. He pulled her close, said, Ti
cherie. And after they promised to meet later, she winked and walked
leisurely in the shade. A tremble followed. When he turned around, her body
was one of a thousand on the streets. He ran towards her, stood by her arm,
unable to see her face. The call drops. I begin to count the ways I tolerate my
dry mouth. To count the glasses of water I gave away to make up for my sins.
But this act does not count when we fall out of our hearts.
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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 Strange Horses (2010), winner of the 2011 Gold Medal Independent Publisher Book Award, which the New York Times says is “a book that trembles with belonging (and longing);” and Poet in Andalucía (2012), which includes, as Alice Walker wrote, “poems of depth and weight and the sorrowing song of longing and resolve.”
Handal’s poetry draws on her experiences of dislocation, home, travel, and exile. Critic Catherine Fletcher writes, “While alternating stylistically between the narrative—tinged by the Romantic tradition—and the slightly surreal, much of Handal’s work is also marked by various forms of fragmentation. Within poems from all her collections, she often deconstructs...
Poems By Nathalie Handal
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