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Hedy Habra – To My Friend from Peru

P Hedy Habra LE P&W Vol 2 2019

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Poems by Hedy Habra

Hedy Habra has authored three poetry collections, most recently, The Taste of the Earth (Press 53 2019). Tea in Heliopolis won the USA Best Book Award and Under Brushstrokes, finalist for the USA 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 fourteen-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, her work appears in numerous publications. Her website is hedyhabra.com


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, trying 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
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 metallic shears.
I trim, curling
docile locks
around my fingers.

Uneasy, we talk,
hands, fingers,
stroking your arms,
your back,
soft bristles
flown all over,
down to your waist.

The round brush swells,
featherlike,
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’d complain
“stop pulling. . .
my roots are so tender.”

III.

Wrapped in diapers,
fed by a tube,
you don’t hear
the doorbell when
your daily
portion of sterile food
arrives packed
in cardboard boxes.

A mute presence
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.
You used to say
when the kids grow up,
they might study in Lima.
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 stopped
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.

Or How She Tries To Hide Her Silent Expectations

After a photograph by Susan Azar Porterfield

You can almost feel her passage
in the trail of a fragrance left
by the wind, sense the frisson felt

in the window’s veils slightly ruffled
by the displaced air as she placed
the iridescent hand-blown vase

over the redwood table, an ardent
backdrop to the bouquet gathered
from her yard, sink into the bluebells’

music echoing the tremor
of the lily of the valley’s arching
clusters, hear whispers deepening

heartbeat hear the lift and pause
of her quickening breath as she
counts the minutes till the

doorbell rings when the doorbell
rings whenever the doorbell rings
if the doorbell rings.


© Hedy Habra