• Hedy Habra


Or Did You Think I'd Never Find The Way Out?

                        After Birthday (Self-Portrait at Age 30, 1942) by Dorothea Tanning



It took me a while

            to wake up from

                        a life not lived


            I’d lost count of hours

lying on a bed of algae


not an Ophelia

            by vocation

                        I tear open


             my silk shirt

free my mind from layers


of false pretense


            the sound of a voice

                        startles me

                                    with words


            strange as a shooting

star landing on my lap


walking through

            endless corridors


I open door after

                        door after door


find myself

            squeezed within

each paneling


            as though framed

                        within my past

                                    in a sur place

pasodoble solo


            one step forward

another backwards


            I move in the dense

                        air as in a dry



the last door faces

            a mirror outlining

                        a woman

I never knew




Note: A reproduction of the painting referred to may be found at:






Or Aren’t Words Worthless, Oftentimes Said & Forgotten, Written & Erased?

                                 After Beyond Words by Liz Collins


We used newspapers to clean window panes when

I was growing up. With sheets crumpled up in balls

moistened with vinegar, we’d rub in circles till words

lost their lives, broken down into letters, ink fading

into erasures, signs reforming anew.


And what of the ritual cleaning and storing Persian

carpets for the long summers? The last step involved

lining them with newspapers soaked in turpentine.


We would kneel, two or three of us, depending

upon the size of the rug, and start rolling tightly,

in the shape of a log, like a bras de Venus cake,

rolling inch by inch, to avoid any trace of air

inviting moths to invade spaces, bite their way


into the handwoven wool. And did we ever glance

at any buried headlines, or worry about words dissolving,

their dye drowning within the meaning once conveyed?


And what of the fate of pages torn out of books,

never opened or abandoned volumes, forbidden

novels, put on the Index, or fallen into oblivion?

At school, the nuns would only lend us books

bearing an imprimatur seal or a nihil obstat. 


The day my dad died they took me to my cousins’ house.

I saw a book cover: a hairy-chested man in a blue-striped

pajama bottom holding a redhead woman in a matching top.


That hardcover stained my mind with a taste of sin.

We never knew we were growing up in a cage,

until words themselves rebelled, burst out of rolled

rugs, discarded paper balls, recycling bins,

became flying doves unlocking doors.


Follow their flight through crystal clear windows,

so clean they’d vanish into thin air,


see them rest over flying carpets, refusing to fade

or be forgotten, stronger wings morphing


into fins, reaching out with their music to heights,

valleys and rivers where people thirst for the sound of letters.




Note: A reproduction of the painting referred to may be found at: