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

Bandit Fiction

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

Nestling by Hibah Shabkhez



She scanned the ground, shaking her head to unblur her eyes. Slitheries or crunchems? He would eat the slitheries if she took him those, but she knew it was the crunchems he loved. So it was the crunchems she hopped towards, even though he was so difficult to fill up on them. It was the first time they had hatched only one egg, and the gawky creature who had emerged was utterly unlike any of their older slender-winged families. They had mourned the inexplicable smashing of the other eggs, but once he hatched they were too busy to remember them very often, except for the occasional pang when they saw other new parents with a full nest.

But they were so very proud of him too, their big strong boy with a voice like a trumpet, not the feeble cheeping of the Daffensy children or the thin treble of the…

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Ameno, Ameno, Ameno; Imprisoned Lightning; The Meat-Poison Cliché

Ameno, Ameno, Ameno; Imprisoned Lightning; The Meat-Poison Cliché are up on Impspired


When first I climbed out into to this Land of do-as-you-please, it was an Inkdeath that I would fain have guarded against, for I deemed it quite inevitable: how can the Inkspell fail, thought I, when you spend more of your life within it than without? Lorenzaccio … but it was not so. This land remains the half-dream it always was, a Middle Earth one steps into for adventures, while that Land of the Lost scarce-glimpsed now from the top of the Magic Faraway Tree remains so starkly real, so starkly mine.
Every time I say a ‘Bonjour’ or hear one said to me, a voice at the back of my brain goes something like ‘Tintatintin. Studio 100, Page 97, Exercice 4, Dialogue 1’ … Nothing matters quite so much here, or in quite the same way. People, places – there is a veil of…

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Remember Only This

By the gloating rocks once its refuge, The sun wallows in scarlet rages; Glovers at the ticky-tacky cages, Who feel naught of the coming deluge From the lurching stream that knows no rest. Each ripple is a Mont Blanc unsung With snow-hunches grown out of dark grace, The cragginess of each jagged face; Burnt with … Continue reading Remember Only This

Marginal Voices

"We like marginal voices" He reassures me "Women writers and poets of every nation -" 'Marginal' voices? But that would be Over one half of the world's population. "All people of colour, handicapped, LGBT -" I look at him in some consternation. "Just who is left in your 'centre' then?" "Why - white, hetero, cisgendered … Continue reading Marginal Voices

En frappant à la porte

Mon âme a besoin de lire votre histoire Autrement, veuillez me croire Je ne serais jamais venue chez vous. Vos penchants naturels sont les plus vicieux Vos songes pourris, d’un caractère fou : Mais, une seule fois, soyez gentil, confiez-moi La recette de ce bonheur, ces transports de joie!

The Fall

Hrothgar Valinaryon was a bit of a jerk. From the first it was evident to the canny that the fall of the House of Valinaryon was at hand. The new King was neither properly cruel nor respectably dissipated. In defiance of all precedent, he would hold none of the dusk to dawn orgies that had … Continue reading The Fall

Chanson de la vieillesse

Deux caractères en bois Une histoire en pierre Autrement gravée en eau Un songe soupirant Une âme toujours souffrante Les transports trop beaux Reviennent souvent chez moi Me confiant à mi-voix Les penchants naturels étouffés


The sun strode briskly towards its zenith as it always did in the fall, something of the warmth of summer emanating from it still. Farmers welcomed it from their fields with hasty glances at the lush verdure it drew from the obscurity of night to glowing, radiant life, women peered at it out of their … Continue reading Earthquake

Bonheur frémissant

Il a un penchant naturel Pour rêves et histoires belles Les songes d’un caractère tel Qu’il n’ose ne se confier qu’à elle. Chez-elle, ces transports de l’âme Qui la font briller comme une larme Sont les biens les plus précieux de la terre Autrement plus que l’argent et l’or

Le conifère

O printemps, dis-je, la neige tua deux fois Dans le berceau tes enfants nouveau-nés Avant l'été de joie qui était leur droit Avant l'automne doré pour vieillir en beauté O printemps, dis-je, nous ne fîmes rien Pour sauver tes petits de cet assaut diluvien Mais si tu te retires, par rage et par peur Aurons-nous … Continue reading Le conifère


Songe, ma mie Songe d’une âme Qui sur le pencha nt de sa vie Brûle toujours pour toi! Songe à ses transports de chagrin À sa triste histoire sans fin Même la Fâcheuse, la perte naturelle N’aura pour l’amour un caractère réel Chez lui, ce ne sera jamais autrement … Songe, ma fille Songe à … Continue reading Songe


«Je pense, donc je suis; je rêve, donc je serai » Ah non, la liberté ne se gagne pas comme ça ! Je pense ; je suis ma volonté, mon coeur pur, Je suis ma foi, ma volonté, ma loi à moi ; Et je redeviens esclave - esclave de ma liberté, Esclave de ma … Continue reading L’esclavage

Cachez-vous mon moi!

Éclatez, les rires! Cachez les songes de mon âme! Pourrais-je suivre ces penchants naturels Raconter ces histoires belles Confier au monde ces transports D’un caractère qu’on croit si calme? Que non, ils resteront tous chez-moi! Ah non, ce ne sera jamais autrement, ma foi! Éclatez, les rires! Cachez-vous mon moi!

La liberté

Mais éclatez, les rires, éclatez! Je m’en fiche … Va-t-en, monde pourri Tes menaces ne pourront rien aujourd’hui Car je ne suis plus cette étudiante molle Je suis Fairy et je suis folle Je suis folle, donc j’en suis libre Éclatez, les rires, éclatez Éclatez, mes amis, pour que je puisse vivre !