We walk through clouds
wrapped in ancient symbols

We descend the hill
wearing water 

Maybe we are dead 
and don’t know it

Maybe we are violet flowers
and those we long for 

love only 
our unmade hearts

On attend, on attend

Wait for Duras and Eminescu 
to tell us in French then Romanian

light has wounds
slow down—
memory is misgivings 

Wait until the nails
get rusty 
in the houses of our past.

More by Nathalie Handal

White Trees

When the white trees are no longer in sight
they are telling us something,
like the body that undresses
when someone is around,
like the woman who wants
to read what her nude curves
are trying to say,
of what it was to be together,
lips on lips
but it's over now, the town
we once loved in, the maps
we once drew, the echoes that
once passed through us
as if they needed something we had.

Granada Sings Whitman

By the river Genil
lovers sing what belongs to the water,
a shoemaker sings the dream he had,
his helper the dream he didn't,
a man sings to the woman
on the broken mattress,
death at midday sings,
on the banks of the Darro
a blind thief
collecting golden poplars sings,
and so does the crevice of quivers,
the saints flaming in la Sierra
and the men rehearsing a country.
They know nothing stays,
but when Whitman sings—
they allow his voice
to take them apart.

Holy Cosmos

We’ve been told space
is like two dark lips colliding

like science fiction
it outlines a small cosmos

where fear hides in a glow
where negative space

becomes a place for wishing
a constellation of hazy tunes

of faint sharp vowels
a glossary of meteors

a telescope to god
a cold bright white

maybe distance damages us
maybe Jupiter

will suddenly surprise us
with a notion of holiness

but instead an old planet
takes over all the space

and we are reminded
of the traces of fire

in our gaze
defining our infidelities

Related Poems

Prayer for My Immigrant Relatives

While they wait in long lines, legs shifting,
fingers growing tired of holding handrails,
pages of paperwork, give them patience.
Help them to recall the cobalt Mediterranean
or the green valleys full of vineyards and sheep.
When peoples’ words resemble the buzz
of beehives, help them to hear the music
of home, sung from balconies overflowing
with woven rugs and bundled vegetables.
At night, when the worry beads are held
in one palm and a cigarette lit in the other,
give them the memory of their first step
onto solid land, after much ocean, air and clouds,
remind them of the phone call back home saying,
We arrived. Yes, thank God we made it, we are here.