a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
drag you across the risky waters,
where the distances are longer,
where pain has laws.
On your face a wave as long as a tomb,
behind you, the cities you left,
all moved, like winded and un-winded
hearts. I look for your bruises,
knowing some damages are irreparable.
I listen: No one dies in the sea alone.
I wonder how it’s possible,
decades later, across continents,
not to find all the parts of you I need.
I take you back to the waters,
take you back to the waves,
to the blue we break and unbreak.
We enter. We get lost. And salt, salt, salt
holds the sea in us, the way desire
holds distance, and deities hold death.
Listened to the sea play to us in A minor. The first scale we learned.
I leaned on the light of our past, wore a white flowing dress.
My heels pointy, like the end of a war with my mother
or the nation. Or the city traffic. The things we say to stay. Ourselves.
You said, Let’s go to the tip of the mountain. There, we watched the waves
down below, and forgot where we were, where we were about to go. I knew
heaven was just a vinyl stereo with no speakers. That a kiss would keep all
we were about to lose. That time is a hole. Humming all it takes to awake roars.
Why didn’t we practice singing? Or listened more deeply when they said,
Blood of my blood, you’ll never have a country but cut my veins and make it
your land. Were these their sentences? Were we born or alive yet?
Where are they now? Which earth are they buried under?
Which heaven holds their hearts? How many bodies must we become
to dream a dream that we can trust, or is there another side to this story?
Who knows what it takes to break a heart?
To invent a word that is full of life, a world that is full of words that help us stay.
Memory is measureless.
Note: Mnemosyne is the goddess of memory and remembrance
Nathalie Handal was raised in Latin America, France and the Middle East, and educated in the United States, United Kingdom and Asia. Her recent poetry books include Life in A Country Album, winner of the 2020 Palestine Book Award, and the flash collection The Republics, lauded as “one of the most inventive books by one of today’s most diverse writers,” and winner of the Virginia Faulkner Award for Excellence in Writing and the Arab American Book Award. Her work has appeared in Vanity Fair, Guernica, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Nation, and The Irish Times, among others. Handal is the recipient of awards from the PEN Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, and Fondazione di Venezia, among others. She is Associate Professor of Practice in Literature & Creative Writing at New York University – AD, and writes the literary travel column ‘The City and the Writer’ for Words without Borders magazine.