BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

The Lives of Rain by Nathalie Handal, foreword by Carolyn Forché

Lives of RainI am the first to admit I missed having the poetry function installed when my limited brain got assembled. So when I DO actually GET poetry, I feel a true sense of gratitude to the writer, not to mention a few outbursts of gleeful accomplishment.

Nathalie Handal’s three-part collection is a peripatetic wonder. She opens with “The Doors of Exile” – ” … stuck between two doors / waiting to leave to enter …” and takes the reader on a diasporic journey through language (Arabic, French, Spanish, in addition to English) by creating both an intimacy of the wanderer’s instant recognition of another traveler, and the displacement of a being other in an unfamiliar landscape both literal and imagined.

In Part I, Handal traverses the Middle East, giving voice to uprooted soul still searching in a lost and missing homeland. In Part II, she touches what seems to be a little piece of everywhere, from Marrakech to Paris to the Dalmatian Coast to Nueva York and briefly settles in Latin America where she visits relatives in “a little ciudad in México,” where the polylingual multicultural ask, “Habibti, que tal?”

Part III is a single, long piece which announces Handal’s journey’s end in the eight-part odyssey of “Amrika.” To mar Handal’s words with paraphrasing would be a literary crime … her finale clearly cannot, should not, will not to be distorted. Here, for now … Handal’s worldly peregrinations coalesce and settle:

” …I wear my jeans, tennis shoes,
walk Broadway, pass Columbia,
read Said and Twain,
wonder why we are obsessed with difference,
our need to change the other?
I wait for the noise to stop
but it never does
so I go to the tip of the Hudson River
recide a verse by Ibn Arabi
and between subway rides,
to that place I now call home,
listen to Abdel Halim and Nina Simone

hunt for the small things
I have lost inside of myself –
and at the corner of Bleeker and Mercer
through a window of faded Arabic letters
see a New York debke

It is later than it was while ago
and I haven’t moved a bit,
my voice still breaking into tiny pieces
when I introduce myself to someone new
and imagine I have found my way home.”

Readers: Adult

Published: 2005


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