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  • Hibah Shabkhez

Hibah Shabkhez: Chew Toffees and Punctured Abysses

Source: Unsplash, downloaded (8.1.2021.)

Chew Toffees

We are

Chew toffees inside packets of éclairs

Sea-salt in firni, honey on fried eggs,

Always and forever out of place.

If all this were smoothed away, forgotten

Our hearts would find new dreams to break over

Trapped in untrusted new joys verboten

By fear of being caught in imposture.

We are

Winter's cold water, hot in summer’s glares

Bunties to be diced by zero's dregs,

Always and forever out of grace.

If all this were lost to time and decay

Our forlorn legacy earth-homed would be

In one greened pebble on a beach of grey,

Or a gull’s cry by a murmuring sea.

Distrust The Heated Frazzle Of Time

Tapping fingers transform shore-lapping waves

Into a flat Times o-c-e-a-n

Of unmurmuring colouring-book blue

How do you write thinning voices that shove

Lifetimes of labour into shrugs, hurried,

Resigned; then hasten to give thanks again?

How do you transcribe residues of love

And worry in old soft brown eyes buried

Deep in sheer loneliness and fear and pain?

If writing is all that history saves

Of us as it did of older worlds, then

They will be first-finders of life's truths too,

Those for whom ours will be the good old days,

Treasured as only past things are that glaze

The torn-up heart of a Land of the Lost

Glimpses Of The Goldfish Bard’s Muse

From a life of humdrum grins and grimaces

Spring myriad jingling Songs of Nothing

Forth on sunsets of an odd loveliness,

Orange pink and blue, with glass-stretched faces.

Under the moon wreathed by drapes in a sling

I gurgle songs. A shallow, garbled mess:

Vain flutterings of a comfort-shelled soul

Trifling verses of yakhni-steeped pulao;

Not grand feeling born of hard-won battle,

Swooping emotion of crises borne whole,

But the twitterings of the cage-born. How

Does staircase-wit falsely turned sharp settle

Autumn leaves dead from being unwatered

That seem by deeper thirsts parched and slaughtered?

Puncturing The Abyss

It had been a long year.

The gulf-shards gnawed brainbones to drain

Life from this heart born drear

The blood of bricks seeping from its ceiling

Seemed flicked-up ketchup to its forlorn guile;

Cracking like stoned glass, it thudded, keening

For mercy, mercy, mercy, all the while;

Trimmed woe off its rims as a pollen bee

Trawling weariness like a concierge’s key.

It had been a long year,

When luck helmed spring-carpets again

Through the abyss of fear.

Time blurring blotting bleaking out brainedges,

Put into twilight’s upcoming locker

The cursed yowls of reborn grundy-hedges

Of childhood zombied to grades and soccer;

Snipped out hope, its rocket gibbering

Sputtering its last sparks in a shoestring.

It had been a long year.

Then your half-smile augured fresh rain

Slaking drought with a tear.


Long ago, I vowed to unstitch world-clichés;

Now I know them for a comic ruse.

Cars burn, fists fly, and dustbins lie upturned

In both my worlds, East and West of the line

No one quite knows how to draw or define,

Except perhaps by the taste of chip-sauce.

It’s all mayo versus ketchup: we toss

In the same strange things to be burned

I look past the dessert-cream moon and pray.

They growl: ‘So words can stop this if you choose?’

But I am not praying for it to stop;

I am not even praying for the dead.

There’s a more selfish prayer to be said.

Let our screams not turn to the quiet thud

Of bodies like oranges rolled into mud

Bruising but refusing to pop.

Let the wasp-like hum of whooshing lead stay

Tied to the scattered pixels of the news.

About the Author: 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 Bandit Fiction, Shot Glass Journal, Across The Margin, Panoplyzine, Feral, Literati Magazine, 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. Linktree:


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The image of Quasimodo is by French artist Louis Steinheil, which appeared in  the 1844 edition of Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame de Paris" published by Perrotin of Paris.


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