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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, November 25, 2016.
About this Poem 

“I’m an urbanite but when I started teaching at the low-residency MFA program at Sierra Nevada College and discovered the numinous openness of Nevada, something unnamed untangled me. Standing under the crisp golden-red light then the infinite dark at Great Basin for the first time felt like being in the middle of my heart and asking, where do I go from here? Where does one go after they’ve lived wars, been too close to death’s shadows, and then sees a version of heaven? Can we give ourselves permission to inhale its glory without betraying those who couldn’t flee, or didn’t survive? Perhaps we are meant to see such wonder to inform us of how beauty resists.”
—Nathalie Handal

Accepting Heaven at Great Basin

When you doubt the world
look at the undivided darkness

look at Wheeler Peak
cliffs like suspended prayers

contemplate the cerulean
the gleaming limestone

the frozen shades
the wildflowers

look at the bristlecone pine
a labyrinth to winding wonders

listen to the caves
sing silently

remember the smell of sagebrush
after a thunderstorm

that Lexington Arch
is a bridge of questions

in the solitude of dreams
that here

distances disturb desire
to deliver a collision of breaths

the desert echoes
in this dark night sky

stars reveal the way
a heart can light a world.

Copyright © 2016 by Nathalie Handal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 25, 2016, this poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.

Copyright © 2016 by Nathalie Handal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 25, 2016, this poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.

Nathalie Handal

Nathalie Handal

Nathalie Handal is the author of several books of poetry, including The Republics (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015), which received a 2016 Arab American Book Award

by this poet

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When the white trees are no longer in sight
they are telling us something,
like the body that undresses
when someone is around,
like the woman who wants
to read what her nude curves
are trying to say,
of what it was to be together,
lips on lips
but it's over now, the town
we once loved in, the maps
we once drew
poem
By the river Genil
lovers sing what belongs to the water,
a shoemaker sings the dream he had,
his helper the dream he didn't,
a man sings to the woman
on the broken mattress,
death at midday sings,
on the banks of the Darro
a blind thief
collecting golden poplars sings,
and so does the crevice of quivers,
the
poem

We’ve been told space
is like two dark lips colliding

like science fiction
it outlines a small cosmos

where fear hides in a glow
where negative space

becomes a place for wishing
a constellation of hazy tunes

of faint sharp vowels
a glossary of meteors

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