poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

Recorded for Poem-a-Day April 3, 2019.
About this Poem 

“Growing up, I was a constant passenger in someone’s landscape. Maybe these landscapes were mine too, but I was never certain. There was always someone or something that made me question my part in it. For refugees, migrants, exiles, and internally displaced peoples, home often becomes what’s lost—what undid, tormented, or saved us. One afternoon, my Swiss Romanian friend and novelist Raluca Antonescu and I were lost in the streets of our minds. She suddenly said, 'In Romanian, we have the word Dor. It means the longing felt when you miss someone—or somewhere—you love.' This is what keeps me hopeful, how we can belong to a three-letter word in a foreign language."
—Nathalie Handal


We walk through clouds
wrapped in ancient symbols

We descend the hill
wearing water 

Maybe we are dead 
and don’t know it

Maybe we are violet flowers
and those we long for 

love only 
our unmade hearts

On attend, on attend

Wait for Duras and Eminescu 
to tell us in French then Romanian

light has wounds
slow down—
memory is misgivings 

Wait until the nails
get rusty 
in the houses of our past.

Copyright © 2019 by Nathalie Handal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 3, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2019 by Nathalie Handal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 3, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Nathalie Handal

Nathalie Handal

Nathalie Handal is the author of several books of poetry, including Life in a Country Album, forthcoming from University of Pittsburgh Press in 2019, and The Republics (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015), which received a 2016 Arab American Book Award

by this poet


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



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

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