April 20, 2024
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Poem

irabotee Literature: Four Poems by Nathalie Handal

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Ways of Rebelling

Who needs to be at peace in the world? It helps to be between wars, to die
a  few  times  each day to understand your father’s sky, as you take it apart
piece  by  piece  and can’t feel  anything,  can’t  feel the tree growing under
your feet, the eyes poking night only to find another night to compare it to.
Whoever   heard   of   turning   pain   into   hummingbirds   or   red  birds—
haven’t  we  grown?  What  does  it mean to be older?  Maybe a house with-
out  doors  can  still  survive  a  storm. Maybe I can’t find the proper way to
rebel  or  damn it,  I can’t  leave.  I want to,  but you grow inside of me. And
as  I  watch   you,  before  I  know  it,  I’m  too  heavy,  too full  of  you  to  move.
Maybe  that’s what they meant when they said you shouldn’t love a country
too much.
The Moor
This is what I see:
a grain of wheat in the hand of a small boy
barefoot on the unnamed roads,
sleeping in the dream another is having.
An oud, a violin, a guitar,
a mirror of dew,
a man about to undress,
a woman staring.
A traveler
returning
everywhere
and forgetfulness
stealing from itself.
Maktoub, the Moor says,
we hold clouds in our mouth
and imagine God in our breath.

Love Letter

I’d like to be a shrine, so I can learn from peoples’ prayers the story of hearts. I’d like to be a scarf so I can place it over my hair and understand other worlds. I’d like to be the voice of a soprano singer so I can move through all borders and see them vanish with every spell-­binding note. I’d like to be light so I illuminate the dark. I’d like to be water to fill bodies so we can gently float together indefinitely. I’d like to be a lemon, to be zest all the time, or an olive tree to shimmer silver on the earth. Most of all, I’d like to be a poem, to reach your heart and stay.

The Thing about Feathers

We kept only the keys,
letters, and photos —
everything else stayed behind
when we left the house.
That can happen when
a nation changes overnight,
when those you know
turn into
a gate of feathers —
and the thing about feathers is,
they know what’s been missed.
For years I watch
my neighbor’s house
from others’ windows—
different countries,
various homes,
some of brick, some of stone.
Some never imagine
what a home can mean
when an unfinished tune
traps the ceiling.
I pretend
never to have
seen a body midair,
a father’s hands
planted on the ground—
after all
what we don’t admit to
never happened.
But I couldn’t
change that day in Murcia,
when water brought light
to the door:
I am seven
it is the day before our departure,
the day my father
gives me a notebook,
and I tell him,
this is where I’ll keep my country.

Source: Poetry (March 2021)

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