Thursday 23 February 2023

Two Poems by Hedy Habra


Once Upon the Time, in Prague, a Word


I woke him up with warm colours steeped in dawn

wove woollen rugs to carry us across the skies,

sought the knotted comfort of ancestral vines,

a ruggedness filled with countless rays of sun,

heard they gave out year after year their sweetest

grapes ...

If you’d just wait for them to ripen...

Instead I stumbled on its scaly, snakelike bark,

his eyes avoided mine

his hand grew cold

he forgot to smile...

I refused to see how tightly the vine twisted upon itself


a wise man once conjured up a Golem, built out of dust

by merely writing on his forehead the word trust

when only one letter sufficed to turn him back to dust


From dust to dust says the priest, placing a dab

of fresh ashes on our forehead, his black fingertips

dipped in a shallow chalice move from skin to skin.

Every Ash Wednesday we bow and kneel, try to keep

the cinders’ mark all day long, lest we forget

dust is our beginning and our end.


but the Golem grew stronger, forgot he emerged from dust

find the right word, whispered street corners in mistrust

let your fingertips mark his forehead, turn him back to dust


We fill empty words with transparent threads

milked from the full moon, woven by the flow

of ink sliding on the page, filling its veins with forests

branching rivers deep into flesh, blood dripping

from every unseen pore.


Some yearn for the right word in gestation

to bring new life from the substance of dreams...

What was a pound of flesh really worth?

Do we ever weigh the impact of an awakened world?


I once built my own Golem to warm me up at night

hoped to see reflected in his piercing eyes

gems full of broken rainbows till I saw a steel look arise


I still search for the missing signs to reshape

tattooed ashes on my forehead, defying memory,

the memory of a raindrop catching the sun’s warmth

inside my heart, warm droplets evaporated into dreams.

I kneel, like a tracker walking backwards

to erase one’s footsteps with a branch

soft as a feather, levelling the disturbed sand.


First published by The New York Quarterly


Untold Tale(s) of Unfinished Tapestry

No one ever speaks of your baggy eyes, your failing eyesight

when shutters closed, you worked by candlelight,

restless fingers revisiting coloured threads,

erasing your own traces, shoulders bent,

sleepless nights spent undoing the daily voyage,

freezing time to fool avid suitors, harbingers of death.


Every stitch undone brought him closer to her arms

 unaware of her doing and undoing,


He came covered with coarse salt, body aching for fresh water,

eager to find solace by your side in the forsaken bed,

a difficult journey back to his lost self, unaware of time’s erasure,

of the silver in his beard and hair, of your callous fingers.


She brought him closer to her arms, a stitch at a time

no one noticed her doing and undoing.


I had a friend who spent her nights mending herself, 

weaving back what was undone with medication,

reconstructing the daily offence of radiation,

imagining strategies to stop the passing of time.

Rainbow-colored tablets cleared inner spaces,

eyes and shutters closed, she worked inward.


Only he noticed your doing and undoing

                        every stolen minute brought you closer to his arms


I see her move in darkness around the flame of a candle.

She visualizes the fabric of her cells, weaving fiery patterns,

watches the yellow flame stretch into blue thread and needle,

breathing hope into her lungs, telling herself, I will prevail.


You will prevail, you tell yourself, doing and undoing,

every stitch will bring him closer to your arms


Your mind instilled light into darkened areas, stitching together

broken pieces, rainbow-colored threads filling spaces with finer

and finer needles, bringing inside crevices the filtered light

of the candle, doing and undoing, until the loom no longer resisted.


First published by Puerto del Sol


Hedy Habra is a poet, artist and essayist. She is the author of three poetry collections from Press 53, most recently, The Taste of the Earth (2019), Winner of the Silver Nautilus Book Award and Honorable Mention for the Eric Hoffer Book Award; Tea in Heliopolis Winner of the Best Book Award and Under Brushstrokes, which was a Finalist for the Best Book Award and the International Book Award. Her story collection, Flying Carpets, won the Arab American Book Award’s Honorable Mention and was Finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. A twenty one-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the net, and recipient of the Nazim Hikmet Award, her multilingual work appears in numerous journals and anthologies.


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