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.
stealing from itself.
Maktoûb, the Moor says,
we hold clouds in our mouth
and imagine God in our breath.
He might return and if he appears blue I might
allow him on top and if he returns with the sun
I will let summer multiply on my body
and if he returns for the phrases in Gallego
I will make him say them in Arabic
What we like most is what doesn’t belong to us
like the field of stars and the Holy Door
like the coins lost on rooftops and the letters in Celtic
like the seascapes the wide rivers wild coastlines
If he returns I will write: Distance dreamed time
into lovers not into houses but a cosmos
Didn’t I ever tell him he is most beautiful
when the arcaded stone streets inside him are wet
when I see him below Christ’s feet and below him
Hercules, holding open the mouth of two lions?
I draw his body on the carpet
to stain what history gave to him
What can postpone departure beside two lips
too much of the wrong heart on the wrong road?
Hurry Rúa da Raiña into glory light into lush whispers
hurry the Atlantic into harmony the chaos into blaze
hurry the fisherman into piers the verse into our bedroom
then ask me to undress the rain
to go by the chimney barefoot
to caress my breast and count in your language
Santiago, let your lips draw the borders around mine
To Yolanda for opening Galicia to me
*The grave of Santiago Apóstel (St. James the Apostle) was rediscovered in 813 at what became Santiago de Compostela. Thousands of pilgrims come to Santiago de Compostela to walk the Camino de Santiago. The faithful believe that Santiago Apóstel preached in Galicia and was buried there. They think that after his death in Palestine he was brought back by stone boat. The line “too much of the wrong heart on the wrong road” was inspired by lines in Lorca’s poem, “Little Infinite Poem,” dedicated to Luis Cardoza y Aragón.
He saw nothing. Said nothing.
He could no longer sleep in the room.
There are many ways to love―
What would you like me to see, I ask him?
I can’t see you any longer.
I see you in every window,
and we hear the same thing,
now that I’m weeping
and you’re kissing.
I wonder what lasts longer,
your lips on hers
or my kiss now further away.
That’s the thing about freedom
it bends you over.
Do we need Almodóvar?
Are you watching
one of his films
Does Madrid miss me?
You envy me.
Open your eyes,
I am alive in the light
and in your distance,
and something else.
I’m thinking about November―
will you be there,
or are you waiting for Pedro,
an afternoon can bring?
*La Movida Madrileña, or La Movida, was headed by Enrique Tierno Galván, a former university professor who was an opposition figure under Franco and affectionately known in Spain as “the old teacher.” After the death of Franco in 1975, nothing was taboo for the Madrileños. Galván became the mayor of Madrid in 1979 and was the most popular leader the city has known. La Movida was an artistic and socio-cultural movement. Many Spanish figures in the arts rose from la Movida, such as the film director Pedro Almodóvar.
Waltz of a Dream
There is a dream of dance
that we’ll remember
there’s ten windows
where shoulders lean on
there is a piece of sun
ten echoes roaming
where love lost
is a place that becomes
Dance yes come dance
There’s a chair
where death sits
there’s a mirror
there’s a garden
that cuts hell into hills
There’s a shadow
that runs through the mirror
and a window that opens
Dance yes come dance
There’s a rooftop
where noise keeps its hat
where white ribbon and a cry
starts to fly
there are footsteps
that want all their shadows
there are lovers that want
all the waltz
Dance yes come dance
There’s a hum
on your forehead that hums
this dream this dream this dream
yes this dream yes this dance
*Written like a song. It was inspired by Leonard Cohen’s “Take this Waltz,” which was inspired by Lorca’s “Little Viennese Waltz.”
Nathalie Handal is an award-winning poet and playwright. She has lived in Europe, the United States, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Arab world. She is the author of numerous acclaimed books including Love and Strange Horses, winner of the 2011 Gold Medal Independent Publisher Book Award, and an Honorable Mention at the San Francisco Book Festival and the New England Book Festival. The New York Times says it is “a book that trembles with belonging (and longing).” She is the co-editor of the landmark anthology Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia & Beyond, called a “beautiful achievement for world literature” by Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer. She has been involved either as a writer, director or producer in over twenty theatrical or film productions worldwide, most recently her work was produced at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Bush Theatre and Westminster Abbey in London. Handal is a Lannan Foundation Fellow, a Fundación Araguaney Fellow, recipient of the Alejo Zuloaga Order in Literature 2011, and an Honored Finalist for the Gift of Freedom Award. She writes the blog-column, The City and The Writer for Words without Bordersmagazine. Alice Walker says of Handal’s forthcoming collection Poet in Andalucía: “Poems of depth and weight and the sorrowing song of longing and resolve.” www.nathaliehandal.com
Return to Inaugural Edition