Maybe there is no remedy for obedience
but fasten your seat belt any way
even if we live in a no fly zone
on an American landmark.
Don’t be fooled,
even the sky has a hierarchy,
a firmament of echo-lights
where no theory is good enough.
Maybe that’s why we suffer the blues,
and we’re attached to sixty watts violet bulbs,
the interstate, battlefields and fairy tales,
in other words, the underworld.
Maybe that’s why we still buy
one litre of milk and watch skyscrapers
study insomnia, and indulge in traffic.
Maybe that’s why we return to abandoned yards
with mounts of motors and other car pieces,
recount stories of captains and heretics,
photograph goats and cows,
and collect earphones and animal teeth.
I guess it beats being bored with laughter
or hoping Sean Penn will save us
or still playing pro Diana Ross or Diana Summers—
if only Last Dance, Last Chance didn’t give us so many highs—
What rocks you lover, tell me?
Grams of love left on carts, the wrong area code.
Damn it—give me a cigarette—preferably American Stripe—
leave the lighter on the Plexiglas table,
and tell me once and for all,
who did you choose, Moses or Mars?
Nathalie Handal was raised in Latin America, France and the Arab world, and educated in the United States and United Kingdom. Based in New York City and Paris, she is a professor at Columbia University and writes the literary travel column The City and the Writer for Words without Borders. Handal is a Lannan Foundation Fellow, Centro Andaluz de las Letras Fellow, Fondazione di Venezia Fellow, and winner of the Alejo Zuloaga Order in Literature, among other honors.