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Hedy Habra


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,

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                        


                        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




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


NBA winner Hedy Habra KNOT Magazine

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

NBA Winner Hedy Habra KNOT Magazine

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. 


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