A poem by Nathalie Handal
Nathalie Handal: winner of the Virginia Faulkner Award for Excellence in Writing
Now that we are guests in our bodies, how do we survive?
Zainab operated a boat to be close to the hundred
and three members of her family who drowned.
Bassem learned to speak a language with another alphabet.
Atiq gathered feathers from trembling snow.
Bekim carried splintered glass across a hundred mountains.
Bina stole prayers from forgotten bodies.
Saba held the sound of the drums as if it were breaths.
Chinelo kept the sun in a folded leaf under a mattress.
Roya kept the shadow of the Caspian Sea in the man who needed her.
Mykola dreamed a mystery turned cruel by another dream.
Maybe the past is the beginning and return is staying absent.
Meanwhile, when anyone says toughen up,
look at them until they fade.
Nathalie Handal’s books include The Republics, winner of the Virginia Faulkner Award for Excellence in Writing and the Arab American Book Award; The Invisible Star; Poet in Andalucía; and Love and Strange Horses, winner of the Gold Medal Independent Publisher Book Award. She writes the literary travel column The City and the Writer for Words without Borders