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Yahia Lababadi

Oceanside Epiphany


Stepping outside, it’s not precisely sun we’re after
or the illusion of perfect stillness, but something else
that has to do with the distant riot of children at play
staccato squeals accompanied by the cries of gulls

Or the gentler song of slighter, winged creatures
circling above, frolicking, or pecking at the earth
while the patter of water offers its liquid paean,
and winds tease trees till they shudder with pleasure

This is the quiet pageant we longed to be part of
setting aside our book or papers to vaguely register
ourselves, easing into the pattern, our breath deepening
and our heart slows beating in unison with other things.

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Words are like days:
coloring books or pickpockets,
signposts or scratching posts,
fakirs over hot coals.


Certain words must be earned
just as emotions are suffered
before they can be uttered
—clean as a kept promise.


Words as witnesses
testifying their truths
squalid or rarefied
inevitable, irrefutable.


But, words must not carry
more than they can
it’s not good for their backs
or their reputations.


For, whether they dance alone
or with an invisible partner,
every word is a cosmos
dissolving the inarticulate.

What the Migraine Said


As I lie, here, half in and out of consciousness
I imagine my migraine as a world migraine
my cluster headache as a cluster of world aches
that we must tip toe around like a sleeping tiger


The sleep of reason produces monsters—
this we know from art and the news:
murder and sham leaders shooting themselves
in one foot and chewing on the other.


But, the sleep of reason produces angels, also
like Love, which is no whimsical thing,
a love like bull, bullfighter and bloody cape,
billowing in the wind, like an open heart


Beckett said this best, truth in paradox:
The mystics I like...their burning illogicality
—the flame...Which consumes all our filthy logic...

Where there are demons there is something precious


Once we know this, the rest is silence.
The master is not permitted
the same mistakes of a novice.

Desert Revisited


under a whirling skirt of sky
streaming light and stars
groping for that tremendous hem
gingerly over quicksand


as though steadied
beneath some tongue and dissolving

not the absence of sound
but the presence of silence


or, as if transfixed
by a gaze, stern-serene
surveying a dream


incorruptible starting point
inviolable horizon
where eye and mind are free
to meditate perfection


there, begin to uncover
buried in dust and disinterest
the immutable letter
(first of the alphabet) Alif


under the ever-watchful eye:
fearsome sun, forgiving moon
bless the magnificent hand
all else is blasphemy, a lie


experience quietude
the maturity of ecstasy
longing to utter
the unutterable name

only striving supreme or pure
can ever hope to endure
the absolute face
the awesome embrace.



Can we ever write about secrets
that we cannot speak of
the thing or two that determine
who we are and what we do


When can we hint at the harm
we’ve hardly survived
the realization that our allure
is due to deformity


Sure, we confess in code
here, there and everywhere
beneath our breath
and over their heads


But when can we ever speak,
plainly, of our obscene pain
to whom and how might we
unburden ourselves, artlessly


The answer might be never
whispers art, to which we owe all
—our lives, wisdom and masks—
only transformation will set us free.


Yahia Lababidi (born 1973) is an aphorist and Pushcart-nominated poet with work appearing in such publications as World Literature Today, Cimarron Review, AGNI, Hotel Amerika, Rain Taxi and Philosophy Now. His first book, Signposts to Elsewhere (Jane Street Press) was selected as a Book of the Year, 2008, by The Independent (UK). Meantime, his latest works are, "Trial by Ink: From Nietzsche to Belly Dancing" a collection of literary and cultural essays, as well as "Fever Dreams" a poetry collection from Crisis Chronicles Press. To date, Lababidi’s writing has been translated into Arabic, Slovak, Italian, Dutch, Swedish and Turkish.

Otherwise, his work appears in several anthologies, including: Geary’s Guide to the World's Great Aphorists as well as the best-selling US college textbook, Literature: an Introduction to Reading and Writing (10th edition). Lababidi was chosen as a Juror for the 2012 Neustadt Prize (a biannual award widely considered the most prestigious international literary prize after the Nobel Prize in Literature).

Awakening from a Dream

In the night, the feathery fists came raining down
He ducked and staggered as they landed, again and again,
On his head, neck and across his shaking back
There was no avoiding this relentless retribution


Could it be, these were the familiar hands of his angels
The same strong ones that, throughout his wrong life,
Carried him through innumerable hardships
Cushioning him from nearly crushing falls


The blows continued to hammer down and he ceased
Trying to avoid what he knew to be his due
Accrued through dismissed warnings and failed promises
He could begin to hear the beating of wings, now


Recognizing, with slow wonder, these fans were also his own
They flapped, like weak devotions, in the dark to shield him
Accompanied by intermittent flashes of a soft blue light
Illuminating the proud army of his divine tormentors.

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