Ibtisam Shahbaz is an emerging writer and poet in Naarm. Her work is influenced by the amalgamation of her childhood in Australia and Pakistani heritage. She has volunteered with Red Room Poetry, on their annual Poetry Month and Poem Forest projects. Her poetry has been published by Monash University Publishing, Old Water Rat Publishing, Short Stories Unlimited and as a finalist in the Sydney Hammond Memorial Short Story Competition. You can find more about her writing journey at


It is your handmade chai
And love that knitted warmth into a sweater of stability
Your smile livened my childhood
And strength was the wind of hope as we sailed through life
I walk upstairs
Chess pieces rest in all the wrong places
Your confusion has created art on a black and white board.

Scattered queens and fallen knights
I clutch this vision like an embrace I must hold on to
Lest it fade with time or distance
Pieces and players strewn across a binary board
fated games, rigid rules
perhaps an allegory for time itself.

I brush dust from this wooden board
Sweeping lost dreams and shared history
The child within reminisces
Life has weathered your hands, Mamá
I hope to learn the game of life,
In hopes you never have to pick up the pieces to play.

© Ibtisam Shahbaz, 2023