Hedy Habra – Chiaroscuro

Hedy Habra LEP&W V2 Dec 2022

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Two December 2022.

Chiaroscuro, poems by Hedy Habra.


Now they speak in long silences. Side
by side on the wooden bench overlooking
the creek, they stare at the broken host,
transparent in the opaque sky. A flight of starlings

flutters breaking the stillness, crowning
a tall twigged tree with Bruges lace
in lieu of fallen leaves. The black burgeoning
foliage, a haunting vision of Spring, stands domelike

against the Prussian blue. “Life is simpler
loving you,” she thinks. “All the words
evading me in imperfect combinations, I find
in a single prolonged touch.” As he rests a hand

on her knee, she hears an inner voice, deep
as a caress: “This night is splendid.” “We have
been together for so long, in our wordless
world,” whisper the stream, the birds, the trees, suffused

in moonlight. A living sculpture heavy with
trills sings of love in Dante’s visibile
parlare, erasing the memory of the suicides’
gnarled trees. His restless fingers mark a beat, humming

an interior tune. She’d enter the movement,
pose her hand over his. Fearful he’d lose
the musical phrase, immobile, she watches the
dance and invents notes of her own.

How I Wish I Could Turn The Hour Hand Back To That Afternoon

I can still see you in your wheelchair rolling forward, backward, always
there to help with whatever you could, a repository of invaluable unwritten
legacies, yet your words could have sharp edges and we learned to bear
the sting of flying needles that once pierced me deeply, though you were
probably right to say what you said, whatever it was, and the way you said
it was probably not harsher than when you’d reprimand your own
daughter, so why should a child in smocks complain about words that
didn’t leave a dent in her memory but would unearth such an unexpected
response from an eleven years-old who didn’t think twice in denying you,
a long-time diabetic, that thick creamy yogurt ripened in terra cotta and
deliciously cooled in the fridge, how I abruptly placed it on top of the
upright piano where your wheelchair couldn’t reach and though I can’t
remember the deluge of angry words that followed, I can only feel its flow
like a silent movie that keeps reeling over and over because you won’t get
to know how sorry I still am even if I ended up ceding to your pleas but
don’t know how long it took since you never told anyone and that
afternoon was erased from our daily lives as one flips a page past an
unpleasant paragraph, but never from my mind even now that I’m in turn,
a grandmother who would like to rewind the tape to replay an edited
scene, though you also tasted my shifts in mood when I was six and
helped you slip your rigid legs into tight stockings, a painstakingly
difficult way of the cross punctuated with your directives to go left or right
to pull harder or less, till we reached a little above the knees, you heard me
say, ok, if you don’t like it, I’ll unroll them while two round bagels rolled
down your ankles and you started laughing and crying, crying and
laughing and I remember it so well because you would always tell the
story to friends and relatives, always laughing and crying and I still can’t
figure out what you felt when I withheld the yogurt that afternoon since
you never ever brought it to light and never laughed or cried about it. Did
you ever forgive me, and how long did it really last only until you can help
me remember since I can’t ever forgive myself.


My eyes rest on two inverted shapes,
symmetrical wedges united in an invisible
point, frozen in medias res, like a snapshot
of silhouettes in a dancing floor.

And I wonder how could the sculptor capture
the muted blue-gray tones of certain cloudy evenings,
then polish and wax them with the filtered light
of a winter day? And how static yet suggestive
of an escorzo is their repressed gesture
in opposite directions?

I suddenly see myself seated by your side,
on a bench, shoulder against shoulder,
forehead bent, lost in pages filled with echoes,
your head, erect, resting over the rugged maple’s bark
and the air flowing between these wedges
penetrates this angle of light separating us
as if we were pillars sustaining the imaginary arch
of a temple uniting us.

And this slight touch through the lining of our coats
anchors us to the stone bench more than weariness
as the body surrenders to its own weight of steel
while a dream hides its imperceptible trembling
under lowered eyelids.

And I think of the other day, of our attempts
to walk together sheltered under the same umbrella,
my shoulders against your bent chest,
we ran through the slippery sidewalk,
soaked, struggling between bursts of laughter
trying to raise or lower this useless protection
entangling our steps.

© Hedy Habra

Hedy Habra is a poet, artist and essayist. She is the author of three poetry collections from Press 53, most recently, The Taste of the Earth (2019), Winner of the Silver Nautilus Book Award and Honorable Mention for the Eric Hoffer Book Award; Tea in Heliopolis Winner of the Best Book Award and Under Brushstrokes, which was a Finalist for the Best Book Award and the International Book Award. Her story collection, Flying Carpets, won the Arab American Book Award’s Honorable Mention and was Finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. A seventeen-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the net, and recipient of the Nazim Hikmet Award, her multilingual work appears in numerous journals and anthologies. https://www.hedyhabra.com/

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