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Hedy Habra (2)

Expectations  

 

Face to face, standing in an immobile boat, a boy and a girl are enveloped by a lapis 

lazuli glow as though out of a painting by Miró revisited by Klein: the deep sea 

evaporates around them, freeing a school of red fish gliding at ease as in an aquarium: 

only their fins flicker like fireflies around the nascent crescent, a silent witness to that still 

scene: the boy holds a loaf of moon in one hand while in the other shines a scarlet star, 

color of the girl’s bonnet. Slightly bent over his offerings, she reflects, her crossed hands 

weighing her breasts heavy with promises.

Defying the Blank Page

 

 

Sketched at dawn with sepia colors, a herd of deer followed by a trembling fawn appears 

in the whitened landscape. Disoriented, they roam around, unable to distinguish what was 

once inert or throbbing under the thick layers of immaculate snow. Head bent, they 

fumble, in search of a blade of grass, a twig or a dried leaf to munch on. They know they 

must keep digging deeper and deeper, farther and farther, until they stumble upon a 

forgotten nut or an acorn, the remainder of a bush, softened fallen bark still covered with 

moss, any meager sustenance to help resist the bitter cold. Are they even aware they 

instill hope in my daily struggle?

Dispossessed

 

I return from a trip, eager to find solace in my estate, but can’t get past my garden gate: 

two masked men are spraying insecticides, turning my premises into chemical warfare 

while a big white dog runs towards me, menacing. Panting, I reach the back door, climb 

winding stairs, take refuge in convoluted coils as in a huge nautilus shell, fumble to find 

the lock that will lead me inside, only to stumble into the maid, an automaton vacuuming 

with a deafening sound. How did she enter, I wonder? I have become a stranger in my 

own home.

To my Friend from Peru

                     Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita

                                  mi ritrovai per una selva oscura ....

                                                                Dante.  Inferno

 

I. 

At forty, you plunged into

         your own

not in a dream or a vision,

   your heart refused 

       to mark time.

A stranger's lips pressed yours, 

         instilling 

warmth until your body awoke.

 

It has been four months 

     now, Margarita.  

You have not said a word, 

lost in a thick fog, in a world

        unknown, 

  only your eyes move, 

          faster

    when we talk.

 

December has come, its snow, 

          indifferent   

 like your hospital bed

set in a room where two

     lovers' breaths 

once steamed tall window panes.

 

In the darkness, he sleeps 

     with your absence,

in search for a sign, losing, 

night after night, the memory 

          of light.

 His mind wanders, following 

    a shadow, a footstep.

 

Arms, hands, never the same, 

       hold you, rub 

your skin, try to strike 

notes from a mute piano.  

Voices, 

fading in dense brume, beg 

        you come back.

 

Fingers open cabinets,

sort out papers, pictures,

       disturb your dust, 

caress 

    your children's hair. 

The same moan greets them 

mouth agape, eyes restless.

 

Yesterday, I read aloud Lorca's

       poem to you. 

The one you loved,

"Romance sonámbulo"

     Two lovers,

unable to reunite, a green, 

       silvery night 

shrouds their tragic end.

 

I could hear you say: 

"Verde que te quiero verde.

 Verde viento. Verdes ramas."

My voice weakened with the

      last words:

"El barco sobre la mar

Y el caballo en la montaña."  

 

Suddenly you were sobbing, 

     sobbing and crying,

         Margarita.

"Did she understand?"

I asked.  The nurse replied:

    "It's hard to say.

She cried a lot today."  

••¶

 

II.

Three years have gone by,

Margarita, 

your sighs, unsettling,

mist of invisible signs,

inaudible fragments 

of a broken mosaic.

And your skin so smooth,

your hair, growing

as wild vines in the rain,

its rising sap 

resists the twist 

of the brush.

 

The nurse straightens

your back, holds 

the comb, passes                

the scissors.

The biting crisscross

of sharp shears. I trim,

curling docile locks   

around my fingers.

 

Uneasy, we talk,           

hands, fingers, 

stroking your arms, 

your back, 

long, soft bristles 

flown all over,

down to your waist. 

 

The round brush swells,

in hot lustrous waves.

I think of my mother,

how she hid her eyes 

with both palms

when I’d style her hair,

how she complained "it burns," 

"stop pulling. . .

my roots are so tender."

•¶••¶

¶••  

 

III.

A stranger in your 

own home,

wrapped in diapers,

fed by a tube,

you don’t hear 

the doorbell 

when your daily portion

of sterilized food 

arrives, packed

in cardboard boxes.

 

A mute presence, 

you rest on a wheelchair

in a corner 

of the family room.

Your eyes stare

at the ceiling while plans 

are made to take you 

back to Peru,

 

to the deep violet-blue sky 

you once knew.

“When the kids grow up, 

they might study in Lima,” 

you’d often say.

Now your gray is showing.

We’re thinking of color

if all agree. 

 

A nurse rubs your limbs, 

kneads, folds, 

unfolds, 

hoping to revive

a nerve, a muscle,

arms, legs, hardening 

into branches, 

misshapen, unearthed roots.

 

Back home,

unable to read

for days, 

the smell of you

clouding every page. 

Time after time, 

we’d stop pretending

you’d understand,

repeating motions 

like automatons.

 

Now you’re back to Peru, 

your birthplace, 

where your elders once lived 

with their dead, 

honoring their remains. 

There, your young heart 

keeps beating.

••¶

•¶••¶  ¶••

Hedy Habra is the author of two poetry collections, Tea in Heliopolis (Press 53 2013), winner of the USA Best Book Award and finalist for the International Poetry Book Award and more recently, Under Brushstrokes (Press 53 2015); a story collection, Flying Carpets (Interlink 2013), winner of the Arab American National Book Award’s Honorable Mention and finalist for the USA Best Book Award and the Eric Hoffer Book Award. She received the Nazim Hikmet Poetry Award. Her work appears in journals such as The Bitter Oleander, Connotation Press, Cutthroat, Verse Daily, Blue Fifth Review, Nimrod, New York Quarterly, Drunken Boat, Diode, Cider Press Review, Poet Lore and Cimarron Review. She has a passion for painting and teaches Spanish at Western Michigan University. Her website is HedyHabra.com

Works from the Author