Three Poems by Hibah Shabkhez

Eleven Princesses and a Queen

They fled, the brothers, as my prince danced
Feet tapping out the drumbeats to the last;
The soldier at them his fox-hounds lanced
From the tinder; then laughed and let them past,
Twirling his new crown about his finger.

The cobblers begging work from door to door
Cry: alack, the princesses dance no more!

Then my sisters in darkness sped away
For an address carrying one last smile
There in that last minuet exchanged; fey
Frisking feet had needed no names to while
The winter nights; in rent hearts smiles linger.

The cobblers begging work from door to door
Cry: alack, the princesses dance no more!

The last braved a storm, groaned over a pea;
For a space the ninth in fair slumber lies;
The third sold her soul to the demon-sea
For grace; the fifth to Bluebeard marriage ties;
The rest are now seen, now again unknown.

The cobblers begging work from door to door
Cry: alack, the princesses dance no more!

Thus, sneaking sandwiches past his dogs, I,
Flitting through the dens of travellers and
The new-landed seamen, hunt news to buy,
For glimpses of sister-fates in time’s sand;
The better to leaven or mourn my own.

The cobblers begging work from door to door
Cry: alack, the princesses dance no more!

Glue Stick

Born of melted bone-stew, my first forbears
Were conjured to bind and to sustain. Poured
Into the cracks and creases of your wares,
They sealed flaws forever. Then you soured
On such strength, and so

We started to grow
Weaker. Latest of the line, a stick-shaped
Blob in a tube, I do but briefly bind
Paper to paper. Your hands boiled and draped
The force out of me. Now unto the wind

You consign my corpse.
My remains languishing in hard plastic
Would fain return to the earth, tell the trees:
‘I was forged from your dead friends to stick
And mend things. Instead I let men break me.’

X.A- X.E- or X.I- ?

A sock wriggling just out of reach
Under the bed, it burns my lips
It burns my stretching finger-tips,
The word for this, the other word
Crannied off after being heard
Or read somewhere. I wring out each

Crease, dust and destroy. If I can
Not find one word, what right have I
To language at all? If I dye
This thought wrong, the world comes crashing
Down, a steel pencil-box smashing
Pin-drop silences. If you ran

Far, if you ran fast, the sadness
Of sound still chased you with a curse
From thirty eyes. Now it is worse
All the slashing eyes, all the tongues
Are mine alone, the rotting rungs
On my own ladder to madness.

About The Author

Hibah Shabkhez is a writer of the half-yo literary tradition, an erratic language-learning enthusiast, a teacher of French as a foreign language and a happily eccentric blogger from Lahore, Pakistan. Her work has previously appeared in Wellington Street Review, Black Bough, Nine Muses, Borrowed Solace, Ligeia, Cordite Poetry, 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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