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 by a thousand birds.
By Hibah Shabkhez
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 Margin, Panoplyzine, Feral, Literati Magazine, 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. Linktree: https://linktr.ee/HibahShabkhez