Friday, 14 June 2024

American Life in Poetry: Cara Aceitunada

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

French American poet, Natalie Handal, has lived in Europe, Latin America and the Arab world since her birth in Haiti, and she offers here a clever and somewhat whimsical self-portrait that flirts with the idea that it is often impossible to presume what is inside of us simply by what our faces offer.

“Cara Aceitunada” is Spanish for “olive-colored face.”

Cara Aceitunada
By Natalie Handal
In Granada
a man asked
for the birds inside of me

I told him I’ve never
belonged to anyone

He asked
where I was from
I gave him a list of cities

He said
the mirrors of history
confuse history

but in your olive-colored face
no one can disturb your heart


American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2020 by Natalie Handal, “Cara Aceitunada” from A Country Album (University of Pittsburg Press 2020.) Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2021 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

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