Under Brushstrokes is Hedy Habra’s second poetry collection (she also did the cover art!), preceded by Tea in Heliopolis (Press 53 2013), winner of the 2014 USA Best Book Award and finalist for the International Poetry Book Award; a story collection, Flying Carpets (Interlink 2013), honorable mention in fiction for the 2013 Arab American National Book Award, and finalist for the 2014 USA Best Book Awards and the Eric Hoffer Book Award; and a book of literary criticism, Mundos alternos y artísticos en Vargas Llosa (Iberoamericana 2012). She is a recipient of the Nazim Hikmet Poetry Award. Her multilingual work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Cimarron Review, Gargoyle, Connotation Press, Cutthroat, Verse Daily, Blue Fifth Review, Nimrod, New York Quarterly, Drunken Boat, Diode, The Bitter Oleander, Cider Press Review and Poet Lore. She has a passion for painting and teaches Spanish at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. Learn more on Hedy’s website, Facebook, and Twitter.
© Hedy Habra 2015
Once, my son, these plains were swaying with golden wheat, purple hues would appear after seasonal rains as a prayer for harvest. Now the horizon has become deeply dyed in laundry blue, the day seems steeped in vivid aquamarine, as though the sea had decided to look upon us from above. Across the valley stands the colossal sculptures of a man and a woman head bent from time immemorial, a petrified proof of what mankind was able to achieve. Since then no drops of water have fallen, no seed has unfolded its wings, there are no longer workers bent in the fields, only these remnants of a past when we could eat from our sweat. Now we rely on words unsaid, stilled by colors, only allowed to move when lights are out in the gallery, condemned to observe the barrenness Dalí created around us. Come, son, we shall circle the human ruins, hand in hand, rest under the coolness of their elongated shadow: we can enter the arched doors and climb the inner stairs to enjoy the breathtaking view from the man’s hollow heart and the woman’s generous thighs, even reach higher into the curve of her hands held like a vessel gathering dew for the birds that nest in the fissures of the stones. See my son, only now can we move freely about the canvas. Let’s follow that fragile light filtered through the cerulean canopy; see how it leads the way to the inviting doors? Let’s hurry before life resumes in the hallways and someone notices our absence. —First published by Connotation Press
Face à face
When with eyes closed, I face the mirror of desolation, I see myself as a dove fluttering in slow motion like a still mirage while I walk the desert dunes, wondering where I’d last seen the scarce palm trees still erect by the smothered tents where all the ones I’ve ever loved are now buried. I search for ashes shrouded in sand, and only see through half-open lids feathers the color of my hair, lidless eyes staring at their mirrorless reflection, lips pursed in triangular silence, and oh, yes, how can I omit those metallic blue shades making us all one, woman and fowl, in love and loss? —First published by The Bitter Oleander
Without any sound, waves permeate the floor, algae cover the curtains with an insidious verdigris patina, and she watches herself, complacent, looking awry in the mirror while she unbuttons her black evening dress, a mirror that remains empty like her own life. Seated in a sofa, back turned, he drowns in his indifference into the surge, and surely, it is his face that is seen reflected in the portrait hanging on the wall, an immersed look, barely visible behind the wide-open newspaper. Waters rise to the rhythm of the notes resounding from the rear window, in which a man with a white wig plays the piano, as though it were Mozart composing his Requiem. The painter raises inexorably the level of the waters, and the woman knows that even in that last moment, she will only be fulfilled by drowning in the torrent furtively surrounding them. —First published by Danse Macabre