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Nathalie Handal Born to Palestinian parents, Nathalie Handal has lived in Europe, the United States, the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Arab world. She studied English and drama at the University of London, fiction writing at Humber College in Toronto, and poetry at Bennington College and also earned degrees from Simmons College in Boston. Her poems, collected in two books, The Neverfield and The Lives of Rain, have been translated into over a dozen languages . While displacement, exile, and the struggles of the human condition are common themes in her poems, “the weightiness of her subjects is delightfully at odds with the buoyancy of her cadence.” Handal has also edited several anthologies, including The Poetry of ArabWomen, which received the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award and was an Academy of American Poets bestseller. She has also written, directed, or produced over twelve film and theatrical productions and is currently in residence at the New York Theatre Workshop. The Warrior It was Wednesday, I remember. Maybe it was Thursday. I had arrived early, early enough to drink some good wine alone with a man I thought we all should fear and for a second forgot. Then they arrived. Nothing in me had changed, even after the wine, even after I saw a goat and corpse cut open side by side. Some say this place is cursed, every drop of water sinks the earth. Strange the things one thinks about at moments like this—was I a stranger to the lover who saw my curves and scars, kissed them then slept like a deserter? Strange what comes to you in the dream-shadows of God—children you saw once in Nablus or Ramallah, who told you the hour the dates will grow in Palestine. Then they arrived. Announced—she died yesterday, but I heard she died a year ago, later that evening I found out she will die tomorrow. And then I heard him say, Shut up, there is only one way to fight a war. Become the other. I cross my legs and take his face apart trying to find a way to remember this moment otherwise. 132 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 132 The Combatant and I It’s been a long time— where have you been, where are you? I miss your frowns, the dark shadow on your oval chin. I can’t breathe at night, can’t feel my legs. Dreamed I stopped seeing. Are you lost? Are you returning? Am I returning? I suppose you would say, I should be happy that I can still love. It’s been a long time. Stop looking at me from so far, come to me, stop following me, come to me, through these dark alleys, yellow-green forests, these hills of stone, rows of olives and lives; stop walking behind me, come to me, you make me lose my way and ways . . . I look out the window and think of the shadows behind your shadows we both don’t recognize, think that between us, sleeps the words we had to leave, think of the movement of hay twirling on that breezy afternoon we crossed to, somewhere we did not expect to be. Nathalie Handal 133 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 133 The Blue Jacket Stardust sifts on the shoulders of the blue jacket, slides down to the end of the sleeves, finds a place at the tower of my fingers. I let the asterisks discover the heart of the sheet, allow the ferries to travel wherever seaweed and lanterns call. I think of the lovesong in the back pocket of a martyr, the way he continued to walk until the end of the smoke, remembered the white and yellow pack of cigarettes in his shirt pocket. I knew that I could find color in the curves of branches but all the color I wanted to see was in the blue jacket. Subways and war games are afternoon attractions for those who survived, I still live by the blue jacket’s rules, its threads healed the bruises on the child’s feet, hid the only arak bottle left from the invaders . . . The blue jacket. I wear it, so I will remember the day I saw him in dewdrops, the day small ivory thorns found refuge in envelopes of letters going . . . 134 Nathalie Handal 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 134 from...


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