THE ANSWER SHEET
The smooth snickety grate of pencil-lead snags
Its way against the lines of the answer sheet
Fixing the margins as it slices across, drags
All my words into the centre, square and neat.
I fill it up with the many functions of blood
In a blue-penned scrawl I double-circulate it
The words that stray outside I instantly scud
To the centre’s shape my rogue thought refit.
Stacks of empty boxes, the margins yawn and clink,
Doing nothing, saying nothing, outside the border;
Yet – it is in them that the fatal red pen will sink
Its cruel teeth to mark the worth of the centre.
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.