Telling her Story to Stray Dogs
She lay countless nights, her moans muffled by a pillow.
She could see his face that Summer morning, feel his voice bite
into her flesh, a surgeon's scalpel, excising. She recalled
waking from a deep sleep, opening her door to the early,
unannounced messenger, his words, burning like dry
ice. She stood motionless as he turned away, climbing hurriedly
into his Honda. She felt a lightness, a readiness to levitate.
Looking down, she saw herself in shattered glass, concealing
the Venetian red-tiled corridor like snow flakes. Folded
in two, she gathered some fragments, then for hours swept floors
and corners filled with impalpable dust.
She was surprised to hear her heartbeat. "It must have
been my soul," she thought, "disintegrating into feathers of glass
all over the house. It’s flown everywhere, for everyone to see,
for everyone to blow away, broken debris coming out of nowhere."
Weeks after, amianthus-like particles still shone on the sofas,
the afghans, the lace curtains, the oak rocker, the crease of a silk
pillow, the fold of a diphenbachia leaf. Many months later,
sun rays would light insidiously a dark corner, reveal a faceted
web of slivered dust, a glimmer on the edge of a window,
within the braided arm of a wicker chair.
The last one to bed, she'd lie, eyes open. Eating less each
day, she became paler, watched her mother stab the eye of round
with a kitchen knife, saw how she pressed garlic cloves deep
into openings and brought edges together to mend the surface. At
the dinner table no one would know the sealed roast had
been pierced in so many places. Now her wound had healed. In
the long waking hours, she'd hear the doorbell ring, see
his words gather, needles welding into a silver scimitar. She could
replay its swift movement in slow motion, fragment it all night-
long, fingers running over her side, redesigning the leaf's imprint.
She prayed for snow, for snow to cover his footsteps
around her house, around the fig and cherry trees, erasing their
traces for miles in the neighborhood, for snow to smother
and bury their geography of familiar places. And snow fell relentlessly
that Winter, and Spring was late, disconcerted. Snow
covered red-tiled roofs, cars, shrubs, rhododendrons, bird baths,
statues of the Virgin of Lourdes, of the Virgin of Guadalupe,
even fir trees and hedges. Snow muffled voices freezing the wind
brushing the Lebanese Cedar hills, concealing old carcasses,
broken bones, ruins, the palace of Beit el Habib, the central square's
Martyrs' monument, bazaars swept by hatred, flakes shrouding
laced arcades, façades riddled with lead graffiti, abandoned rubble.
Lulled by the vast whiteness, she no longer yearned for the
change of seasons, but wished to dream again. Each morning,
folded in two, she would walk bent, smoothing the scar on her
side as if ironing a shrunken garment. At night, she'd hear a
crisscross, particles sliding against each other with each
move. Slowly, out of her falling eyelids, a silent, wordless presence
rocked her in a bed of rose petals. Soon, lost snow flakes
would melt into dew, avenues smell of lavender and tender
blossoms. She dreamed of roaming the streets, a village fool
telling her story to stray dogs, to leaves in the trees, chasing
the ones flying in the wind.
Phoenicians Once Sailed from These Shores
Fishermen, shoulders bent,
set sail daily,
oil lamps, a loaf of bread.
Theirs a biblical patience,
taking them farther
muscles tight, foreheads furrowing,
awaiting for the secular miracle,
their nets deployed
in an ancestral garb,
flutters as a dancer's veil
enveloping the dense,
sterile Mediterranean waters,
scooping algae, residues, dead fish,
They return home empty-handed,
later every time,
at dawn or dusk,
disappearing under thick eyebrows,
their flattened nets
heavy with the absence
Hedy Habra first published by Luciole Press
Reading the Future in Turkish Coffee
Let me take you by the hand,
enable you to enjoy every single step.
Savor every drop like nectar,
careful not to drink
the muddy bottom.
Cover the small cup with the saucer,
swiftly turn it upside down
swirling dregs as you circle clockwise...
one, two, three times...
Now, make a wish and concentrate...
Tap the upturned cup three times,
wait a few minutes...
See how the dark concoction
drips into rivulets like china ink
along the cup’s porcelain inner walls
See how black-veined
drawn by an imaginary brush?
See for yourself: unlike Rorschach’s
coffee dregs irregular designs
echo delicate Daum configurations,
sealing leaves, petals, feathers
in a translucent congealed liquid.
To see the world in an upturned cup,
your whole life unfolding,
a fleeting, ephemeral moment
in broken mirrors.
See how my finger points at the handle?
This area is your home.
At its right lies your future,
your past rests on its left.
Can you see this fish jumping from the depth?
This is money you’ll cash in soon.
Beware of these two women talking about
someone you know who is very sick.
You’ll get a letter soon.
See these three dots?
In three days, or weeks...
Keep looking. See these trees? They merge
over there in this clearing.
leads to a dense forest.
See how it darkens
as you reach the middle of the cup
opposite the handle?
You’ve just entered a remote area of your past.
Only you can decipher what lies
beneath its landscape.
You must project
your inner life on each sign.
the pulse of emotions,
breath by breath.
A butterfly opens and closes its wings.
I don’t invent anything, you know.
at the white spaces.
Do you see this dog?
Squint your eyes... Here is his snout.
He is a faithful friend,
unlike the cat.
The cat is magic, a mystery troubling you.
But believe me, you know best. You have all
Relax... it’s all within you,
Just close your eyes and conjure up
each image engraved in your cup
as if it were precious crystal.
Hedy Habra first published by Parting Gifts
Song of an Egyptian Woman Advising
Listen, habibti, on those days, you know, when aunt Rose is visiting, you can’t pickle vegetables! Always use a fork if pulling one from a jar or else they’ll go bad.
Don't take a bath, never allow water inside your womb on those days, no bathtubs, no pool, nor sea, or you’ll never be able to conceive!
And remember never wash your hair with hot water when you menstruate.
Now, if you really must go to the beach, and want to swim, drink first half a glass of lemon juice to stop your period.
Don’t ever sit on wet grass or a cold stone: you'll catch your death!
Never mix fish with milk products, its bad for digestion.
If you do eat fish when you have a cold, it’s fatal.
Don’t forget that if you have a big scare, you must run and take a leak: pee as much as you can. All evil will be released.
To make sure a guest wont stay too long: turn the broom upside down and replace sugar with salt when you prepare coffee.
Never ever leave any underwear lying in places where a male servant can see them. He won’t rest until he sees what it once covered.
When the moon forms a crescent, look at it and smile.
If you’re not alone, watch how the other person’s face is lit by moonlight, you’ll know then what’s in store for you for a whole month.
If they smile, you’ll have a great month. At the same time, make a wish, or was it three?
In doubt just give them priority.
And, most importantly, when your man steps into the house see to all his needs.
If he calls you and you’re in the middle of something, whatever it may be, just leave everything at once.
Get rid of him promptly! Satisfy his needs!
Then and only then can you peacefully resume your work without interruptions.
Never confront a man with his errors. They’re big children. Let them think they’re always right. Of course, we know better.
Remember, habibti! Iron fist in a velvet glove! And follow our neighbors’ saying, stroke with one hand, punish with the other.
Hedy Habra first published by Parting Gifts
Early erotic readings
At our convent school the nuns regularly loaned us romance novels by Delly or Max du Veuzit. You could scan Delly’s whole book and never find anything close to a kiss but
Max du Veuzit would give us substance to think about. We finally saw her protagonist
play out seduction scenes but only in the novels’ last pages--oftentimes on the very
last--and only after being married. After months of struggle, the couple would seal
their disagreements with a passionate kiss, signaling the fall of the walls of Jericho, the beginning of an erotic novel we were to reconstruct. Later, in my teens, I discovered in
the Heliopolis Sporting Club’s Library, a selection of roman noir that made me blush as
if everyone around me knew I’d be watching nude pictures. I sensed a pattern in Jean
Bruce’s sleuths through the trials secret agent OSS 117 would undergo in front of an irresistible blonde. Furtively flipping through pages, I’d cross a rite of passage whilst the
thrill of slipping a silk nightgown seemed lustfully sinful.
Hedy Habra first published by Parting Gifts
Hedy Habra is the author of a poetry collection, Tea in Heliopolis (Press 53 2013), Finalist for the 2014 International Book Award, a short story collection, Flying Carpets (Interlink 2013), winner of the 2013 Arab American Book Award’s Honorable Mention in Fiction and Finalist for the 2014 Eric Hoffer Book Award in Short Fiction; and a book of literary criticism, Mundos alternos y artísticos en Vargas Llosa (Iberoamericana 2012). She has an MA and an MFA in English and an MA and PhD in Spanish literature, all from Western Michigan University. Her multilingual work appears in numerous journals and anthologies, including Connotation Press, Poetic Diversity, Blue Five Notebook, Nimrod, The New York Quarterly, Drunken Boat, Diode, Cutthroat, The Bitter Oleander, Puerto del Sol, Cider Press Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Danse Macabre and Poet Lore.