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Phoenicians Once Sailed from These Shores

 

Fishermen, shoulders bent,

set sail daily,

carrying baits,

oil lamps, a loaf of bread.

Theirs a biblical patience,

taking them farther

every day,

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,

fugitive ripples.

They return home empty-handed,

later every time,

at dawn or dusk,

eyelids lowered,

disappearing under thick eyebrows,

their flattened nets

heavy with the absence

of life.

 

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

branches spread,

                        forking paths

            drawn by an imaginary brush?

 

See for yourself: unlike Rorschach’s

            symmetrical patterns,

                        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                        

            reflected

                        in broken mirrors.

                                    Watch closely.

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. 

                                    This thicket

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. 

Slowly release

the pulse of emotions,

                        breath by breath.

 

A butterfly opens and closes its wings.

 

I don’t invent anything, you know. 

Look now

            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

            the answers. 

                        Relax... it’s all within you,

my friend.

                        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

 

 

I

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.

 

 

II

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.

 

 

III

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.

 

 

IV

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.

 

 

V

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

 

Série Noire

             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. 

 

Please visit www.hedyhabra.com