Opening Statement

I don’t want to join you, I want to listen. Not eavesdrop, precisely, just listen. From this distance, I don’t understand a word you are saying, and yes, that pleases me right well. It is the hum of your voices I need, because laughter and conversation mingle and become the same soft murmur everywhere. So … Continue reading Opening Statement

FLASH FICTION — Hibah Shabkhez


Photo by Nicolas Houdayer on Unsplash

Language Barrier

They tell me, when it is not cloudy in this country, oh, you must come out and enjoy the nice weather. They do not understand that nice weather for them is not nice weather for me. They do not know that the sun terrifies me. Clouds will kill you too, yes, but gently, with mercy. I don’t know how to explain that, for those born in scorched countries, nice weather nearly always means a grey sky. I know every single one of the words I need, even in this strange, stumbling language, but I don’t know how to string them together to say this.

HibahShabkhez is a writer of the half-yo literary tradition, an erratic language-learning enthusiast, and a happily eccentric blogger from Lahore, Pakistan. Her work has previously appeared in Black Bough, Zin Daily, London Grip,The Madrigal,

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Poetry: Water Under The Bridge by Hibah Shabkhez

Fevers of the Mind

Water Under The Bridge

I looked away, and Time did steal A sliver of my home; Licked it off like a mud-sauce streak From a sea’s drying foam. ‘You owe me water,’ said the dam To the river. ‘My dish Body cracks, dries to a mud-jam Of dead and dying fish.’ ‘Thief,’ said the river, ‘you have leached And stagnated eaux Destined for my rock-bones, now bleached And withered in their woe.’ Time flowed past us, its zeal unworn And scooped up homes amain; Scattered its birds like popping corn On the floor of my brain. Bio: Hibah Shabkhez is a writer of the half-yo literary tradition, an erratic language-learning enthusiast, and a happily eccentric blogger from Lahore, Pakistan. Her work has previously appeared in Fevers of the Mind, Black Bough, Zin Daily, London Grip, The Madrigal, Acropolis Journal, Lucent Dreaming, and a number of other literary magazines. Studying life…

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Come One, Come All

Fevers of the Mind

Come One, Come All


To Señor Örümcek’s Human Circus

Greatest Show On Earth!

Wholesome Fun for the Whole Family!

Sunday, September 5

“It’s silly to be afraid of an insect,” said a deep man-voice from behind the door.

“Ooh, a newbie!” said Hava Fare to his brother, craning his neck to see over the rows in front. “I love it when they have a newbie.”

“You don’t understand!” said Hava and Atesh together, at the same time as a woman-voice behind the door.

“She always says that,” scowled Toprak Fare, sticking her ear-buds back in.

“I’m going in now,” said the man-voice.

“Well, I think it’s cruel to torment the poor creatures,” said Su Fare.

“Don’t cry, Su. They’d kill us in a cat’s pounce if they could,” said Hava. “Here, have some water.” He put his arm around her but kept his eyes on the…

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Poetry Showcase from Hibah Shabkhez

Fevers of the Mind

Know, Please, That We Know Nothing

Before your just-shrouded head, in the first
Numb hours, the brain's pencils are already
Out, sharpened and scribbling. Straining to burst,
   Finding itself sewn into words instead,
Her heart, which would fain break in peace and thirst
Until obliterated, curses them
   For doing so.

Her mouth twists and barks, drawn by self-contempt  
   Into a crooked sneer. Self-written all, 
To our own secret shame, we must attempt
As we watch, to not understand this dread
We know, to not see why she is laughing
And bidding your still, shrouded head
   Turn and laugh too.

  Reason Enough Why is happiness not reason enough For the doing of things? Because the tough, The dreary, the harder-to-do we deem More worth our while. Because we cannot seem To be made of quickly soaked, shallow stuff Like tissue paper. So we must be gruff, Leatherly, even to our own…

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“Gift”, by Hibah Shabkhez



My six new soup-bowls line her shelf    
each with a lacy leaf and rose
that cringes from the seventh's scowl
from the memories it dredges
out of the misting past

Resolute to the last
at my remonstrances she smiles
like a hollowed-out egg, and goes
on eating in the cracked old bowl 
chipping gently at the edges

Hibah Shabkhez is a writer of the half-yo literary tradition, an erratic language-learning enthusiast, and a happily eccentric blogger from Lahore, Pakistan. Her work has previously appeared in Plainsongs, Microverses, Sylvia Magazine, Better Than Starbucks, Post, Wine Cellar Press, 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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Spire Without Glory

Heron of sorrow, officer of the plague and traitor of the eclipse, a king made a vow on you to wage war; and since then, you have become guardian of the ruins of the world. Like you, the ...


Wilder Literature

promise. you smile as i mumble of green horses, my eyes wandering and lustreless. i see them as i have not seen them since the days when i could still laugh.

one green rose sings in the meadow, and the green magpie cocks its puzzled head at me as i fling it a glimmering gold ring. you have haunted me for five and seventy years; now i shall haunt you. promise.

i promise to haunt, terrorise and mentally flay you, till undeath do us part.

like the burn on the table-cloth the vase never quite hides, i shall crawl into your consciousness at odd, unguarded moments, and you shall flail and gibber.

they will think you mad with grief at my passing, you who are cradling the lucent vial of poison-nightshade against your heart as you glide smiling into my chamber. bella donna. how fitting.

i was a bella donna…

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this is not who we are

Wilder Literature

ears that heard rustling foil, mouth that gloried
in the soft sweet silk resting upon it,
i exonerate you both. these storied
squiggles that frolic on the dimly-lit
screen, imprisoned these poor eyes, and lead
these limp, erring hands inexorably

hibah shabkhez is a writer of the half-yo literary tradition, an erratic language-learning enthusiast, and a happily eccentric blogger from lahore, pakistan.

her work has previously appeared in plainsongs, microverses, sylvia magazine, better than starbucks, post, wine cellar press, and several 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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Juliet and Her Romeo

‘Three whales do make a school,’ said Cidybaum. ‘We are Mysticetti, daughter. One of us is worth a dozen Odontoceti.’ ‘I prefer us to be “herd”, anyway,’ said Reldnahce, and Meirrow groaned. 'Not just seen. Perhaps then we would be spared, not speared. Or we could be a shiver?’ ‘We do not speak of sharks … Continue reading Juliet and Her Romeo

A Poetry Showcase by Hibah Shabkhez

Fevers of the Mind

photo by Zoe (unsplash)

Articulate Sashes

Spurred by a long night's rasping breath
  Window-sashes flutter the call
To arms, songs of glory and death
The world answers. Shadows grow tall
About the unsleeping head that lies
  Untranquil in the mist.

Patches of moon-cut darkness scan
  Its stark eyes for ways to set free
The flightless bird under the ban 
Of ice, the joy its frozen sea
Still holds close. Mosquitoes become flies
  Flies demons, in the mist.

Each dawn's grey-coated light must mourn
  A loss: the beauty of the night
It slew. Each Joy bears an ice-thorn
Thrust by the axed sea which will fight 
Life to lure it back, unless it dies
  Or dissolves in the mist.

Dissertation I am crawling through the maze in the mud On three limbs, hauling a square lead orange Up rocky slopes. It laps up the blood And erases the traces of my…

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Three CNF Flash Pieces by Hibah Shabkhez

If mangoes and melons and baby sisters have odes of their own, apples deserve a poem. So do apricots, bananas, and younger brothers, those very special extensions of you that are not quite you and never quite yours. They deserve words ...

Y U Like Dis

"We do have one reservation," The voice, hitherto mellifluous behind the smile the 'still buffering' loopy arrow had blurred to a snarl, crispened suddenly, and I straightened up. "During a quick glance through your Facebook activity – standard company procedure, nothing personal – our psychoanalysts found a disturbing number of memes about drinking at work. … Continue reading Y U Like Dis

Grey Hair – Hibah Shabkhez

Deep Overstock

Each grey hair I grow has powers unknown
To all but the torchlight that never blinked
In the storm that unlit our beacons, thrown
Into darkness by the ardour that winked

And sputtered hope. All the while that serene,
Stolid tube of trapped and vapid light stared
On, through the thunder, at the drowning green
Faces and porches standing almost bared

Of their ramparts of privilege. But dare
We raise cold grace to the rank of the hiss
Of log-fires, of candles’ need to care
For us? Do we forget to treasure this?

Better to feign and mourn a Love unfelt
And sneak, secretless, into a sphinx’s pelt

Hibah Shabkhez is a writer of the half-yo literary tradition, an erratic language-learning enthusiast, and a happily eccentric blogger from Lahore, Pakistan. Her work has previously appeared in Zin Daily, Litbreak, Broadkill, Rising Phoenix, Big City Lit,

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Egg-And-Butter Sandwiches

Your cousin is boiling alphabet pasta for her children. “You used to tease your Mom to make egg-and-butter sandwich-stars? Remember?” “She always said it was a waste of bread.” Your cousin’s smile fades. When you wake up, you see a plate. With an egg-and-butter sandwich-star on it.

Not A Road-Kill

Plucked from your seat, tossed like a dollAwaken slumped against a wallNumbly whispering a prayer.xxxJust lie there.Breathe, breathe, breathe your fillxxxUntil –

Just Saying + Envy

Just Saying Pulling on scruffy, badly-laced joggersWith savage triumph, I dig inky handsInto the deep pockets of my tree-brownGreatcoat, ....

Narcissa, Narcissa

into my bones the termite colonyof knowledge thrusts a new branch. allthis anguished inking, and my legacy ...

Two In The Bush

Eunoia Review

A bird in hand is worth two in the bush
A bush in hand is worth a chair
And a chair is worth a hack and a push
To plant it a house new and fair

So they sang, the first of the axe-wielders
And we said nothing, though the birds
Told us of their woes. But now your chippers
Take a hundred bushes for words

And worlds we do not know. The culled starlings
Taught us dread. Leave us as before –
One bird each in hand to give our feet wings
And two in the bush to yearn for.

This is a reprint of work originally published in Finished Creatures.

Hibah Shabkhez is a writer of the half-yo literary tradition, an erratic language-learning enthusiast, and a happily eccentric blogger from Lahore, Pakistan. Her work has previously appeared in Bandit Fiction, Shot Glass Journal, Across the…

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La mer ronge le soleil couchant     Alors que je vous dévore,O mon beau gâteau, o mon croissantChéri. Pâtisserivore,     Je lance notre défi au ciel,Coudes plantés sur le sable. Une cicatrice dans la nuitL'auguste lune se dresse,     Outrée par nous. Le soleil s'enfuit ;Avec fougue et allégresseElle tire son ciel du néant     Pour un fol instant de gloire De son … Continue reading Jouissance


“I'll wedge between the digits and pinch the web. When he squirms, I'll blister him!”“That’s a bit extreme?”“He went for a run when he knew I was fraying. I ripped open, he went on running. Torn as I was” Sock gulped. “He hung me out to dry!”

BEING OLD By Hibah Shabkhez

The Rising Phoenix Review


In our brains the ‘if you want to succeed
You must work hard’ saws and adages they fit
Like whip-toting consciences that feed
On the false promises, oft implicit
Of a lasting happiness. Not the kind
That may soothe and cheer in an idle hour
Spent feeding birds, but a thing you may bind
With chains of gold in a secret tower.

With curving spines and quashed hearts, with heads sore
From inflictions of small torments to foil
Sleep, the struggle must be endured. Wherefore
Having lashed myself to this mortal toil
This optimisation of every breath,
On the road more taken, here in this cold
Knowledge wrung from a life akin to death
I sigh ‘It is difficult being old’.

At seven and twenty, in exhaustion
Of soul, I whisper these my brother’s words,
Stolen for this cry to the sky’s legion,
To be chirped cawed croaked…

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Zoological Studies

They cannot run towards me, or away:     They can only flutter awhileAt the steel bars, then drop out of view.So I distribute glimmers of my smileTo all three bird-cage rows and say      ‘I want to write a poem about you’ The parrots hop and jibber ‘you! blue! clue!’     The macaws cackle their disdain;The peacock preens … Continue reading Zoological Studies


‘Angered seasons have ere now’, creak the bonesOf the old, ‘laid cities to waste. Now timeWill uproot from our earth the enraged stonesAnd heap them upon our heads’. But the grime Of their dreads leaves the young unmoved and sureIn changing with the changings of the freeWorld to find horizons broader and moreAlluring. This time's … Continue reading Wilderness

Minefield of Pain

My mémoire is a minefield of painEach word worms into my chafed fleshLike the trickling salt of summer sweat,The aftertaste of taunts laughed away Cette étude explore once againOases left unfed to the thresh;Ouvre again the gashes that letThe fell words m’effacer, m’écraser Foul acid-rain showers, they still sloughShield after shield from the memoryBound to … Continue reading Minefield of Pain

Seven Is A Beautiful Number

‘I am here to haunt you,’ said the ghost. ‘Hello, ghost,’ said the little girl. ‘Welcome. Meet my other ghost-friends.’  ‘So you are haunted already,’ said the ghost ‘oh dear.’ ‘Why, what’s the matter? There’s always room for a new haunting,’ said the little girl. ‘Oh no,’ said the ghost. ‘I want to be someone’s … Continue reading Seven Is A Beautiful Number

Sıfır Genç Bir Sayı

Fever Dream

A poem by Hibah Shabkhez.

I refuse myself the sweltering swig. All around me they gulp and squirm, while I snicker at the pigeons scampering in the road. When the red light turns green they shall flutter and fly, only to come flocking back behind us, just as we will shuffle hither again tomorrow and wriggle ourselves again into this lurching tin crate. The butterfly alone will not return, that soaring papillion, the farfalla that brushed the glass with its wings and twirled away, like the zero in a counting book squiggled into a corner of the page of one, with nothing to have or to hold, not even a long history. Arigato, mariposa mia, for drifting past us in grace. If you had drawn closer, lingered, I might have remembered the cocoon and the carrion. Daughter of the air, you bring water instead upon your wings, the first…

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Buy Me A Magic Mirror

“If Your Majesty alludes to Judges, I would say Shoe String, or perhaps Cold Pipes. If we speak of complexions, the snowman your step-daughter and her friends have built would appear to be – oh dear, the young ladies have had a falling-out, and our erstwhile pristine friend is much bespattered. If beauty be your … Continue reading Buy Me A Magic Mirror


‘Older people are quite likely to become xanthodontous even if they do brush their teeth.’ This observation, muffled by a phone-and-hair shield, left me a little nonplussed, until I realized it needed no response because it asked nothing of me, but was simply so many words shared, like waves of the pine air-freshener sprayed liberally … Continue reading Xanthodontous

Conversations With My Diary, Summarised

18y - I am a person. - Are you quite sure? 19y - Am I a person? - You should be more. 20y - Am I a good person? - If you have to ask ... 21y - I am not a good person. - Take yourself to task! 22y - I am a bad … Continue reading Conversations With My Diary, Summarised

Two Poems By Hibah Shabkhez — Grand Little Things

Rent In Twain The eagle within me dreams of soaring Above aught that in earth-tied eyes may gleam: Plucking the richest prey out of the plain To the echo of wails and vain roaring; Brooding over the talon-scarred bones, Adding daily more tokens of the slain, Vaunting each triumph with a savage scream; Queen […] via … Continue reading Two Poems By Hibah Shabkhez — Grand Little Things

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…

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Zombies, Bring It On by Hibah Shabkhez

via ZOMBIES, BRING IT ON by Hibah Shabkhez

Jotted Down What I Heard Me Saying, And…

Rejection Letters

“This metaphor in the third poem is amazing, and the last line – gut-punch! Should we shortlist it?”

“This is an experimental poetry magazine and that frigging rhymes. No.”

“So we …”

“So we send a rejection.”

Dear Numpty L—-,

Thank you for your submission. While we appreciate the chance to read your work, we regret that we are unable to accept it for publication. You’re really good, but did you have to rhyme, like, every second line? It does say ‘experimental’ and ‘avant-garde’ in the guidelines, you know.

We wish you the best of luck finding homes for these poems!


Y– S—


“Onto the next one… Okay, this is pretty experimental. Good too.”

“Yes … But the writer lives in X–. This is a print magazine with no budget and that’s half-way around the world.”

“So … Okay, yeah, got it.”

Dear Writer who lives in a…

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Querencia – Hibah Shabkhez

My favourite cat lives on a bookshelf My favourite dog is made of brown thread; My favourite people ... via Querencia – Hibah Shabkhez

‘Man is Clay’ by Hibah Shabkhez

via 'Man is Clay' by Hibah Shabkhez

Uproot the Hobbling Magic – Hibah Shabkhez

via Uproot the Hobbling Magic - Hibah Shabkhez



Last night when climbing the stairs in the dark, I slipped, hit my face against a wall, and bruised it. Bruised it with a thick black wedge like a blueberry cheesecake slice right above the left cheekbone. I winced and swore but thought no more of it: when you live alone your dreams are not disturbed just because an idiot of a wall decides to slash your face. Until I reached the metro station this morning, and it suddenly became my new visual identity card.

Here I am, beskirted and bescarved, brown-skinned and Muslim, humming Kashmiri ballads with a bruise on my face. Until the silence starts to strangle the words in my throat. In every eye that I encounter or that flies mine sheepishly, I begin to see something new. Pity. Sympathy. Outrage. Derision. Shame. Disgust … ‘Husband? Father? Brother?’ I can read the questions – and the answers…

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Pandemic Poems

The first of the virus-work Do Not Use The Word Knit Me Thunder Yearnings Coronavirus Poems      

Dragon Will Soar

In the sunsoaked russet-green hills of Ycenna, in these pretty colinettes with twinkling green slopes cloaked ever so gently by winter, there is a contented exquisiteness of blue-green lakes and rivers the size of a rue. It is a world of plenty, fecund and joyous, in which the promise of ecstasy whimpers and dies unfulfilled. … Continue reading Dragon Will Soar

Hibah Shabkhez: “Quaint Mournings”


Quaint Mournings

In shivers of pain we paint our nails bright
To conceal the arching, skin-fused beauty
Of translucence that mirrors and pools light
To crunch and strew in shards

As we drift through the deserted doorways
Falling in love with sweet melancholy
That grants us the right to languish and gaze
Inwards, backwards, homewards.

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 Petrichor, Remembered Arts, Rigorous, Lunate, With Painted Words, The Dawntreader, 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.

Twitter: @hibahshabkhez
Instagram: @shabkhez_hibah

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The Redress of Poetry

Seamus Heaney 1939 – 2013 - Oxford Lectures (1995) A capricious and arbitrary analysis of the first of this series of lectures “Heaney discusses and celebrates poetry’s special ability to redress balance and to function as a counter-weight to hostile and oppressive forces in the world” (Book Blurb) The Redress of Poetry sets out, in … Continue reading The Redress of Poetry

The Canterbury Tales: Usborne

Quite the most readable version of the 'Tales I've ever come across, very decidedly not excluding 'Master Chaucer's' own from the list. As such, it makes a very welcome addition to the book-friends of this eternal don't-quite-wanna-be of English literature, who must always peer suspiciously at the original, the cursor winking slyly from the Google … Continue reading The Canterbury Tales: Usborne

The Shadow Upon The Iron Giant

Should something a poet or a writer could have said or done or have been influence your reading of his or her works, especially when the source of all such information is the garbled testimony of people now dead? People you never actually knew, with their own lives and lies? What difference is there between … Continue reading The Shadow Upon The Iron Giant

Warping Teaspoons

Starfish-delved daisies her sight-leached eyes weep To hear the note of glee into the hushed voices creep As they strip into whistling dashes her name via WARPING TEASPOONS

The Hour of Sunlight

I like this book, because it is one of the few versions of a festering international sore which has only a handful of rather believable angels, whose demons are rather evenly divided, and most of whose characters have the air and manner of living people. And I like the telling of it, half-story, half-biography. If … Continue reading The Hour of Sunlight

I Write; Therefore …

‘What are you doing?’ ‘Nothing.’ She yanks down the lid of her laptop, holding on to the thread of her verse, blocking out the voice with her gritted teeth. But it takes the poem with it when it finally goes away. … A shadow over her shoulder. ‘“Shizenadé knelt down among the pomegranate trees and … Continue reading I Write; Therefore …

Asi es la vida

Credo Espoir

written by Hibah Shabkhez


‘O Raven days, dark Raven days of sorrow…’ The line is stuck in my head like a biscuit-commercial jingle and a witch-chaunt rolled into one, and I do not know what to do about it. If I were not half-crazy with guilt, there would be no need to do anything, and it would go away all by itself, like a new song looped for six days and then quasi-forgotten. But I have a conscience trained in the ‘you must do your homework before you can —’ tradition, and it demands that I spend every waking minute on work until every single assignment is done and done and done indeed.

Therefore? nonetheless? most of my deadlines tend to whoosh past with a vengeance. For there are muffled poems inside me that I have not the strength to excavate, and I know the whetted ivory beaks of the…

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Vanished Smiles

My voice stands for the vanished smiles Of the silenced children, Whose innocence dies Starved and caged, in the knowledge Of having been undone By our self-serving lies; Who grow up to know Hell so intimately, they go Seeking it when sent to Heaven. [First published as a Global Peace Poem Response]

G. B. Malleson upon 1857

This gentleman was an officer of the British Raj, writing at its zenith. Presumably, when he wrote in reply to his rhetorical question about British victory in the War of Independence: “How did they accomplish the impossible?”, he did most earnestly mean his reply: “It was a question of race”, which seems as incredible and … Continue reading G. B. Malleson upon 1857