Yahia Lababidi


Yahia Lababidi, born 1973, is an internationally published writer of Egyptian - Lebanese origin. His first book Signposts to Elsewhere (2006) received generous reviews from writers in the USA and throughout the Middle East. In 2007, his work was included in an encyclopedia of the World's Great Aphorists, by former editor for TIME magazine (Europe) & author James Geary.

Meantime, Lababidi's essays and poems have appeared in journals world-wide, including: Leviathan: Melville Studies (USA), Cimarron Review (USA), Ruminate (USA), Haight Ashbury Review (USA), Mizna: Arab American Literature (USA), Idler (UK), Dream Catcher (UK), Arena (Australia), Montreal Serai (Canada), Bidoun: Middle East Arts and Culture, as well as online literary projects such as MAG and The Other Voices International project.

Lababidi was the featured poet in November 2006 on RAWI: Radius of Arab American Writers, http://www.rawi.org/featured_writer_Nov_1.html



There are hours when every thing creaks
when chairs stretch their arms, tables their legs
and closets crack their backs, incautiously

Fed up with the polite fantasy 
of having to stay in one place
and stick to their stations

Humans too, at work, or in love
know such aches and growing pains
when inner furnishings defiantly shift

As decisively, and imperceptibly, as a continent
some thing will stretch, croak or come undone
so that everything else must  be reconsidered

One restless dawn, unable to suppress the itch
of wanderlust, with a heavy door left ajar 
semi-deliberately, and a new light teasing in

Some piece of immobility will finally quit 
suddenly nimble on wooden limbs
as fast as a horse, fleeing the stable.


Words are like days:
coloring books or pickpockets,
signposts or scratching posts,
fakirs over hot coals.

Certain words must be earned
just as emotions are suffered
before they can be uttered
- clean as a kept promise.

Words as witnesses
testifying their truths
squalid or rarefied
inevitable, irrefutable.

But, words must not carry
more than they can 
it's not good for their backs
or their reputations.

For, whether they dance alone
or with an invisible partner,
every word is a cosmos 
dissolving the inarticulate 

What do animals dream?

Do they dream of past lives and unlived dreams
unspeakably human or unimaginably bestial?

Do they struggle to catch in their slumber
what is too slippery for the fingers of day?

Are there subtle nocturnal intimations
to illuminate their undreaming hours?

Are they haunted by specters of regret
do they visit their dead in drowsy gratitude?

Or are they revisited by their crimes
transcribed in tantalizing hieroglyphs?

Do they retrace the outline of their wounds
or dream of transformation, instead?

Do they tug at obstinate knots
inassimilable longings and thwarted strivings?

Are there agitations, upheavals or mutinies
against their perceived selves or fate?
Are they free of strengths and weaknesses peculiar
to horse, deer, bird, goat, snake, lamb or lion?

Are they ever neither animal nor human
but creature and Being?

Do they have holy moments of understanding
deep in the seat of their entity?

Do they experience their existence more fully
relieved of the burden of wakefulness? 

Do they suspect, with poets, that all we see or seem
is but a dream within a dream? 

Or is it merely a small dying 
a little taste of nothingness that gathers in their mouths?


to find the origin,
trace back the manifestations.


Between being and non-being
barely there
these sails of water, ice, air -

Indifferent drifters, wandering 
high on freedom
of the homeless

Restlessly swithering 
like ghosts, slithering through substance
in puffs and wisps

Lending an enchanting or ominous air
luminous or casting shadows, 
ambivalent filters of reality

Bequeathing wreaths, or
modesty veils to great natural beauties
like mountain peaks

Sometimes simply hanging there
airborne abstract art
in open air 

Suspended animation
continually contorting:
great sky whales, now, horse drawn carriages

unpinpointable thought forms, 
punctuating the endless sentence of the sky.

If there were more than one of me
I'd shave my head and grow my beard
I'd be a Doctor of Theology 

In great coat of myth, impermeable to ridicule
I'd raise my voice and sing
hymns to the Unknown god 

Another me would come undone voluptuously
submit to possessions, deliriously
mate with night in vicious delight 

I would be, in a word, unspeakable
indulge an appetite artistically criminal
gloriously indifferent to utter:  ruin! 

Yet another me would take to stage
part animal, part angel in improbable outfit
strike ecstatic pose and fuse with masses 

Or perhaps, at last, renounce words and self
occupy an eye, to better see
in silent awe, peripherally 

But, there is only this ambitious pen, and playpen
fencing a mass of miscarriages
trembling from time in unquiet blood 

And I, with reluctant fidelity, am guardian
looking over the restless, violent lot
for fear of fratricide.

Selected Aphorisms

Impulses we attempt to strangle only develop stronger muscles.

The biographer's art is that of confessing through the mask of another's personality.

In life, as in love, graceful leave-taking is the epitome of gratitude.

Just because a monument takes a lifetime to build, does not mean it cannot take a moment to destroy.

Free will is bad advice.

To better appreciate our parameters, we must act as though all were permitted.

Looking death in the eye is like staring into the sun; for a while, you see its impression everywhere, stare too long and you see nothing else.

The notion of family is merely a comforting fallacy. In truth, there are only relative strangers.

Performing human tricks, daily, is the consequence of a lifetime of animal training.

Liar: one who claims to tell the truth, always.

The harshest critics are those denied access to the work; it is the same with life's critics.

Time forbids attachments. Clinging to a particular time is courting madness.

Modernism is to literature what Existentialism is to philosophy: a state of emergency.

Intuition: generous deposits made to our account by an unknown benefactor.

Marrying for looks is like buying books for their pictures - a good idea, if one cannot read.


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