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Telling her Story to Stray Dogs

by Hedy Habra

A poem taken from the book of poetry Tea in Heliopolis published by Press 53 (2013)

                She lay countless nights, her moans muffled by a pillow.
She could see his face that Summer morning, feel his voice bite
                into her flesh, a surgeon’s scalpel, excising. She recalled
waking from a deep sleep, opening her door to the early,
                unannounced messenger, his words, burning like dry
ice. She stood motionless as he turned away, climbing hurriedly
                into his Honda. She felt a lightness, a readiness to levitate.
Looking down, she saw herself in shattered glass, concealing
                the Venetian red-tiled corridor like snow flakes. Folded
in two, she gathered some fragments, then for hours swept floors
                and corners filled with impalpable dust.
                She was surprised to hear her heartbeat. “It must have
been my soul,” she thought, “disintegrating into feathers of glass
                all over the house. It’s flown everywhere, for everyone to see,
for everyone to blow away, broken debris coming out of nowhere.”
                Weeks after, amianthus-like particles still shone on the sofas,
the afghans, the lace curtains, the oak rocker, the crease of a silk
                pillow, the fold of a diphenbachia leaf. Many months later,
sun rays would light insidiously a dark corner, reveal a faceted
                web of slivered dust, a glimmer on the edge of a window,
within the braided arm of a wicker chair.
                The last one to bed, she’d lie, eyes open. Eating less each
day, she became paler, watched her mother stab the eye of round
                with a kitchen knife, saw how she pressed garlic cloves deep
into openings and brought edges together to mend the surface. At
                the dinner table no one would know the sealed roast had
been pierced in so many places. Now her wound had healed. In
                the long waking hours, she’d hear the doorbell ring, see
his words gather, needles welding into a silver scimitar. She could
                replay its swift movement in slow motion, fragment it all night-
long, fingers running over her side, redesigning the leaf’s imprint.
                She prayed for snow, for snow to cover his footsteps
around her house, around the fig and cherry trees, erasing their
                traces for miles in the neighborhood, for snow to smother
and bury their geography of familiar places. And snow fell relentlessly
                that Winter, and Spring was late, disconcerted. Snow
covered red-tiled roofs, cars, shrubs, rhododendrons, bird baths,
                statues of the Virgin of Lourdes, of the Virgin
of Guadalupe, even fir trees and hedges. Snow muffled voices
                freezing the wind brushing the Lebanese Cedar hills, concealing
old carcasses, broken bones, ruins, the palace of Beit el Habib, the central square’s
                Martyrs’ monument, bazaars swept by hatred, flakes shrouding
laced arcades, façades riddled with lead graffiti, abandoned rubble.
                Lulled by the vast whiteness, she no longer yearned for the
change of seasons, but wished to dream again. Each morning,
                folded in two, she would walk bent, smoothing the scar on her
side as if ironing a shrunken garment. At night, she’d hear a
                crisscross, particles sliding against each other with each
move. Slowly, out of her falling eyelids, a silent, wordless presence
                rocked her in a bed of rose petals. Soon, lost snow flakes
would melt into dew, avenues smell of lavender and tender
                blossoms. She dreamed of roaming the streets, a village fool
telling her story to stray dogs, to leaves in the trees, chasing
                the ones flying in the wind.

All artwork is courtesy of Reda Khalil.

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