Monday Jun 24

HandalNathalie Nathalie Handal is an award-winning poet, playwright, and editor.  She teaches and lectures nationally and internationally, most recently in Africa, at Columbia University and as Picador Guest Professor, Leipzig University, Germany.   Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, and she has been featured on PBS The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, NPR, as well as The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, Reuters, Mail & Guardian, The Jordan Times and Il Piccolo. Her most recent books include: the landmark anthology, Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia & Beyond (W.W. Norton) and Love and Strange Horses (U of Pittsburgh P), 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).”  Her work has been translated into more than 15 languages, and some of her awards include: Lannan Foundation Fellow, Honored Finalist for the Gift of Freedom Award, Recipient of the AE Ventures Fellowship, Shortlisted for The Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, Winner of the Menada Literary Award, and Winner of the Pen Oakland Josephine Miles National Book Award.  Handal writes the blog-column, The City and The Writer, for Words without Borders magazine. Cllick here to check out her website.
Walking to the Alcázar
Esta es la dulce Málaga, llamada de Bella, de donde son las famosas pasas, las famosas mujeres y el vino preferido para la consagración.
Rubén Darío
Who rewrites what’s slanted,
the shape of the position you just left,
how your body molds the air,
leaving a fixed space?
I leave different shapes of me
all over Málaga—
I walk Alameda Principal
and people pass by me
as if they know something
I don’t. Franco is gone,
but it’s difficult to forget
the map of bones
he left behind.
The Puerto opens up,
waiting for a message or a breeze—
no one can hide anything from the sea,
people fill the chiringuitos,
and Rubén awaits at the end of the avenida.
Now facing the Gibralfaro
I accept the moment,
what will come.
I ask about the rampart, the Coracha, the Alcazaba,
ask about the limestones, the Patio de los Naranjos,
the gunpowder, and the Airón Well.
Where are you Rubén?
What haven’t you shown me,
what do you look like undressed,
what do the earth and the waters
have in common
when a woman presses her breast against them?
My clothes are now wet,
it’s winter,
I belong nowhere this minute,
it begins to rain.
My voice accepts the other voice—
Arabic then Spanish.
The ocean is broken
but not even that can divide us.
Nothing belongs to me,
but I am here and you exist—
you keep showing me
the way love moves what’s past.

Note: Alcazaba in Arabic is al qasbah, which means citadel. Gibralfaro or Gebel-faro means rock of lighthouse—the first part comes from the Arabic word yabal or mountain, and the second part from the Greek word faruk or lighthouse. The Alcazaba-Gibralfaro was built in the 11th century. Airón Well is 40 meters deep, carved out of the rock, and is designed in an Arab style. Chiringuito is an open-air restaurant.

Paraguas Perdido
They come from Ecuador—
want another flag
want their universe
to be made
of European coins
and old history.
They want the origins of holy,
of water
in both hands,
a factory of metal
and tears.
A sun never goes for too long—
the rain
means more rain.
The acres of trees—all oranges—
are many,
the city close enough
to the beats of their pulse
they have been counting
since Ronda.
The sound of their reverie—
sleep that winds time,
a clock
An architect, now a farmer,
measures distance
and the fine angles
that chart another vega.
A mouth moves
over a page of wings,
over an elegy
a match unlit
and a direction
no one bothered to remember.
No teahouse, no light, no river,
keeps me for long here,
an Ecuadorian tells me,
like a lost umbrella—
at times wanted, often forgotten—
but I am thankful, for now,
the night has
left the rain elsewhere.
Note: Ecuadorians are the largest group of Latin Americans in Spain. Vega in Spanish means the plains. In Spanish, fulano means what’s-his-name or someone without a name—whoever. It derives from the Arabic fulan.