Now that the streets are empty and you press a compass to your chest

Let’s wind down National Poetry Month with this poem by Nathalie Handal (1969-). Her border-crossing life (she’s French-American, was born in Haiti to a Palestinian family and has lived around the world) emerges in her collection Poet in Andalucía, which explores otherness and togetherness so beautifully.

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“Now That”

Ahora que está tan sola la soledad
Joaquín Sabina, “Ahora que”

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Now that we’ve counted
the seasons for exile
and stopped wondering
if it’s us or the birds who weep

Now that the canvas is wet
and paint drips on our bodies
now that we have crossed
the borders of hearts
and know what’s real
now that disappearance
can’t be understood after all

Now that we stay in bed
and I lay you out inside of me
now that the streets are empty
and you press a compass to your chest
stack a sorrow after a wound
and measure the map of want

Now that two people run inside of you
one searching for its lost head
while the other watches
now that we have learned
to love each other
the way we are told we should

Now that I say goodbye
and write about leaving
I feel alive
now that nothing is urgent
and everything is here
now that waiting keeps us away
from a forest of thorns

Nights made us all the same until dawn

Today I turn to the prominent, prolific, and deeply profound Turkish poet Fazıl Hüsnü Dağlarca (1914-2008) as I try to come to terms with this past year, with this perpetually broken and beautiful world.

 

fazilh

 

“Earth Love”

We severed continents and divided countries:
Seeing the state we’re in, poplars were aghast.
Although the earth unfurled its golden feast
Where our hands were joined by bread and salt:
Brother, we failed to understand.

Nights made us all the same until dawn
As they drifted over our beds.
There we were, more foolish than frogs.
While leaves on the pond told the unity of time,
You lived apart and I lived apart.

What evil magic strangles our fate:
For ages our thoughts remain fast asleep?
What mystery is this, white and not white?
We love one another’s trinkets and beads,
And not one another’s land.

translated by Talât Sait Halman in Defense Against the Night