The poetry of Hibah Shabkhez

Blue Castles of Wood

We scurry past each other, dipping heads in unison
Ignoring the broken clasps slowly coming undone
As out of her ancient valise a battered laptop peers
And in my inkstained hand a grubby flashcard appears
I swing onto the bus; she settles into the bistro chair
Both by our silent unsmiling nod made once more aware
Of our unquenched yearning, a fellow burning-desire
To build blue castles of wood in the heart of a forest fire

The garçon sets before her the swirling illusion
Which wreathes her as the bus glides away
It will sputter, fade, wither and grow cold
Wasted, untasted, growing wrinkly and old
To feed her dream of being loved one day
While with one finger trembling but sure
She stabs out letter after letter in a profusion
Almost more stirring than quill-scripts, those
Wild lurching things ‘gnarled, snarled and obscure’
Made of words a wistful hovering muse chose

“Hélas, Madame, she keeled over and died.
Emailing a journal her 501st submission;
Her only son sent a letter of permission
Bidding us donate her things to the refugees.”
I see the old broken valise being untied
And a child stroking the battered silver edge
Making out her sprawling words by degrees
I see them driven into misery like a wedge –
“Ah non, Madame, I sold the ordi as scrap
For they told me it was useless old crap”

Clinging to the walls of my flame-licked blue castle
I watch hers burn down.
No towering stone keep will follow it now.




Clouds, O gentle spaceship Clouds, hither fly
Shield us from the piercing blue of the sky
Save us from the sun’s stern light
Burning its bitter truths into our skin
With stinging salt leeched from within

Bury the sternlight shafts in your cottony pages
Choked in your shivery winds let them fight
Until they shatter you and the tears pour out
O how we long to sit in your silvergilt cages
And sing loudly of the freedom without

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. Studying life, languages and literature from a comparative perspective across linguistic and cultural boundaries holds a particular fascination for her. She is currently doing her Masters at the Sorbonne and spends most of her free time maundering around Île-de-France. Blogs: and

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.