Nathalie Handal

1969 / French / Palestinian / American

Love And Strange Horses—intima'? -

One hundred breaths split the air
as I lean
on the only pine tree I find.
It's early or late, it's breezy or hot.
The fields are dry. Summer is near.
The horses are everywhere,
strangely galloping a dream,
but I can't remember
how to call them,
so I stand back, watch them pass.

The first time I rode a horse
my body found the music of fire,
crackling the wind. An unbearable pleasure
that also left me with a burn on the side of my leg.
A sign, the horsekeeper told me, of longing.
A need to return—to belong.
After all, departure is like
pushing the weight of our heart
against the village
whose name has kept us awake.

Rafael came from somewhere in Eurasia.
I passed my hands through his mane—
saw a history of conquests and battles,
a field of hay, a mount of truth,
heard a silent ring,
his eyes asking me to go with him,
to confess something sacred,
to name something lustful.
Nothing of where he came from,
or who I was, disturbed us.

I knew he was different by the way he ran—
without pause,
without grace,
without distraction,
without ease.
He was told how to move in the world
and resented it.
He knew he would never own anything.

He came toward me.
It was a quiet afternoon.
I stood unmoving.
And we listened to the untitled music
circling the earth like an anthem
free of its nation.

He was unfamiliar to me,
approaching as if he possessed the land.
Every morning he stopped five feet
from the river.
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