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Hedy Habra Of Lebanese descent, Hedy Habra was born in Heliopolis, Egypt. She studied at the Faculté Française de Médecine et de Pharmacie of Beirut and, after living for several years in Brussels, moved to the United States, where she earned degrees in English and a Ph.D. in Spanish literature from Western Michigan University. In addition to poetry, she has written critical studies on Spanish and Latin American authors and translated the work of Dominican poets into English. Habra’s first poetry book is Tea in Heliopolis. Even the Sun Has Its Dark Side but does it really matter, unless we could enter that hidden space, the way grains of sand would suddenly rise in an hourglass, reshape themselves, regain their initial place. I wonder what is lost behind a picture, rippled in its negative as I often try to read between the lines, sense clenched teeth, or grasp an unspoken word. When I set to bridge these gaps, my blood warms up in tides, revealing a tightness in the chest as if memories, pressed in a tin can 93 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 93 kept near one’s heart, could sweep away the gray outside. We lost everything when we fled, except for an album full of my childhood pictures in Egypt and my children born in Beirut. “You’re so lucky,” everyone said, our family unharmed, not one of their fingers was worth the whole world left behind. Our beds were made in places where the sun teased us, hiding most of the time, forcing us to master the local motto . . . make sunshine inside . . . Christmases followed one another offering versions of our lives, each fragmented image evoking a new face, a recipe . . . an absence . . . Whenever I sort them out, I see myself floating in a fluid lining edges in search of a referent that has vanished, leaving only an empty shell, crumpled, discolored like fallen leaves. I felt constantly renewed, peeled off like an onion, shedding layer after layer 94 Hedy Habra 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 94 until what was left was so tender, une primeur à déguster, yet so vulnerable, then wings grew overlapping its core to mend what was undone, like praying hands in different tongues while children rebelled against whatever came from a distant land, the repotted bulb spread roots in the New World’s moist soil until it looked whole again. And year after year we learned to sit in front of the camera, gather a succession of perfect moments till I lost track of what lies under these smiles. How could I ever part with my old black and white photographs, taken when I was a little girl and no one forced me to smile, yet I knew how loved I was . . . pictures of my parents proudly seated in a mock airplane about to take off . . . . . . my mother’s delicate lace net coming down her toque, half-covering her eyes, head slanted in an enigmatic look a la Garbo . . . my father in Hedy Habra 95 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 95 black tie and white scarf, a tall hat in his hand. I see you posing with us, mother. Your age, the same as mine, playing a role, a proud, perfect mother. Yet, I never saw you happy, I mean really . . . Nothing like our pictures, the four of us radiant, year after year. I got used to smiling, you know, thought it made me look younger, helped hide the wrinkles. After capturing the sun inside me, now the peer pressure . . . . . . the need for American beauty. 96 Hedy Habra 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 96 Milkweed Only at dusk is one swept by the deep sweet scent of milkweed, a turbulence in the evening’s crisp air. Scepters, edging the road in triple rows, crowned by pink, minute star-like flowers linked by invisible rays. I pull the thick stem, an ancestral gesture, freeing hairy filaments from rain-soaked earth, to bury in the creek’s moist soil. Rubbing my sticky fingers, I wonder what powers lie in the white bleeding of broken leaves, the stigmata of purple veins, cures lost with old shamans, before this land was named Michigan. And I think of Lebanon, the green figs we grew in the mountains of Baabdat, figs picked, children climbing forbidden fences...


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MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
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