Three Poems By Hibah Shabkhez


The clasp on this clutch is my grip
   On you, breath. It looks strong
But in a single choke or slip
I could so soon lose you
   For good.

I build you these frail cloth prisons
   But they may not hold long
Like cracked eggshells mourning chickens
I could so soon lose you
   For good.

I taste you with prodigal joy
   Like a forgotten song
This bounty has but one alloy
I could so soon lose you
   For good.
     Qui Totum Vult ...

Pages of crumpled scribbling, and we return
     To the thorns that failed their first rose,
Then in grief's furnace learnt to bleed and burn
     For spite and not for love. They chose
Their crown of grief. The delicate jasmine,
     Though, the motia, perforce became
Lady of blindness and death, a blithe Queen
     Blighted by pens, made a fell name
To affright those who would fain have loved her.

Pages of mountains, seas, sands, clouds, suns, blue skies - 
     Of clichés potent and voracious,
Feeding and bleeding their ancient half-lies
     Into each fresh truth, ferocious
Elephants eating everything their rooms
      Hold, even the silence that looms
Around them like a fox's white winter-fur.
      Zebra Crossing

Unknown until quite lost, like happiness
Everything banal stands for something else
      Just now, something other, that busyness
Masked hitherto. A strange strong love that swells
My heart for a city-terrace blossom
      Teaches me the horror of the unseen
Cages I have often laughed to scorn. Bosom
Heaving, I make stammering vows to clean
My life, house, heart ... Vows I will never keep,
     That will pinch as I chortle at a meme
Snarkier than the rest, then in past-wracked sleep
      Be whisked and omletted into a dream

I would let their lightning flow through my core
     And out again, erupt in cleansing flame,
Would have vows in zebra crossing strands sure
Of their road course through the death-bound flesh frame
     I call my Self. Instead they sputter out
Behind a sour little old good-girl smile
A shrug that doesn't know what it's about,
     And a lorn heart wondering all the while

     Why, if I unabashedly adore
This uncomprehending flower, this leaf -
      Does it cost so much to open a door,
To say 'Thank you. Your words leaven my grief'?

Hibah Shabkhez is a writer of the half-yo literary tradition, an erratic language-learning enthusiast, and a happily eccentric blogger from Lahore, Pakistan. Her work has previously appeared in Black Bough, Zin Daily, London Grip, The Madrigal, Grand Little Things, Acropolis Journal, Lucent Dreaming, and a number of other literary magazines. Studying life, languages, and literature from a comparative perspective across linguistic and cultural boundaries holds a particular fascination for her.

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