Hedy Habra

 

 

(USA)

 

 

 

Is There Such a Thing?

 

There are times when even the light of a candle

is no longer needed, when night vision is a gift

and fingers write in Braille an Esperanto

where all languages intersect, their veins forking

from right to left or left to right, rising in columns

or pictographs, forming letters in tongues

foreign to the mind but somewhat legible

to the heart beneath the brushing of the skin.

 

Then letters stretch, meander through erratic paths

and I can almost see how their roots weaken

the way my bulbs rot from too much rain

when the rain is made of tears washing out memories,

wiping the eye socket clean, blurring the inside vision,

until we no longer remember a spark in a look,

in a gaze, not even in our own reflection.

 

Isn’t it often with eyes closed and teeth clenched

that we seal the chest where our fetishes are kept?

 

A silver bottle opener, a miniature locket, a cigarette lighter, a Burma pearl, a postcard, an autographed book, a fish-shaped pin, a tiger’s eye heart, my mother’s recipes with titles in red Gothic script, my grandmother’s chain watch incrusted with sapphires, her hand-made lace, an embroidered pillow cover with her initials “M” for Marie and a wish “Buon riposo” or whatever was salvaged from the looting, lying among the rubble of our apartment in Beirut like a lavender gray shawl with silver threads I crocheted on so many long evenings and haven’t used in twenty years,

 

but what is really worth remembering?

 

Don’t we sometimes build walls that end up

being murals of indifference whenever sealed,

or as we try to forget or remember what was

nothing but a deaf-mute dialogue, we see it,

billowing like smoke, each voice, a fragmented

monologue, twisting over itself and the other’s,

forming a Möbius chain ascending towards

the clouds, the way images once thought

 

everlasting vanish like ripples around raindrops

on the mutable surface of a pond when the wind

blows softly, so that no record is kept

of the turbulence, not even of the trembling lines

before stillness flattens its skin into a metallic sheet,

deepening the roots of the sycamore trees,

lengthening the tiger lilies, doubling arrow roots

into open fans over the frozen mirror.

 

 

First published by Puerto del Sol

 

 
 

A Bird’s Song, Unraveled

After Remedios Varo’s Creation of the Birds

 

All artists are night owls, she thinks, as circles grow wider

around her eyes. Eyelids lowered, her brush, an extension of

her violin-shaped heart, adds the last touches of blush to the

feathers’ tips. She tries to remember the right words thrown

pell-mell in the folds of memory … memory adds layers to

meaning … wants to retrieve numbers and signs from slumber,

relive the initial moment, imagines how wingless molecules

rub against each other in the copper alembic.

 

All it takes is a double binding broken lose to find the right

combination: only verbs are allowed. Aren’t they the heart of a

sentence? What of a wordless message as those from the heart

strung from the right chord? She holds iridium glasses to gather

light from stardust … hoopoes, hummingbirds, kingfishers,

finches, sparrows, swallows, warblers, orioles … she has lost

track of how many species flew in search of an answer, each

bird carrying its own song, from all corners of the earth.

 

Her wings aren’t strong enough to cross the seven valleys. She

needs to send an emissary to partake in the colloquy of birds.

Barefoot, she steps over shades of silver dust strewn by shooting

stars, conjures up their broken light night after night. The original

formula … lost since time immemorial … led to confusing myths

such as people drowning in their own reflection or making love

to their own creation. She knows the secret of the bird’s song, its

loops and roundness, but chooses silence, lets its wings flutter

through the open window. She will try again.

 

 

First published by World Poetry Today

 

 

 

Words Hovering Over Pond 

After Remedios Varo’s Encounter

 

She loosely folds a muslin wrap around her

slender body, waves swirl in suspension

from head to toes as she dresses and undresses

away from her own reflection. You’d think

she’s getting ready for a performance, but

mirrors are banned from her walls, their

shattered shards buried in small boxes stacked

on shelves, their dark lids gathering dust like

archived journals, each filled with forgotten

objects, mute messages, layers shed from her past.

 

Each time she tries to open a box, hesitant,

she sees her fractured self staring, keeps

the lid half-open like a half-open notebook

lest she’d stumble on the tumult of empty

words, ellipses, mostly silence.

Each time she faces this startled look, she slowly

lowers the lid, won’t let the voice utter the same

unsettling questions hovering over her dreams,

over her dilated pupils still like the satin surface

of a pond, won’t let her repeat what she already knows.

 

 

First published by Valparaiso Poetry Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bio

 

Hedy Habra has authored two poetry collections, Under Brushstrokes, finalist for the USA Best Book Award and the International Poetry Book Award, and Tea in Heliopolis, winner of the USA Best Book Award and finalist for the International Poetry Book Award. Her story collection, Flying Carpets, won the Arab American National Book Award’s Honorable Mention and was finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. An eight-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, her work appears in Cimarron Review, The Bitter Oleander, Blue Fifth Review, Cider Press Review, Drunken Boat, Gargoyle, Nimrod, Poet Lore, World Literature Today and Verse Daily.

 

Her website is hedyhabra.com

 

 

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