i was birthed when juma’a was still young
my mother nearly died but i was too pink a blessing
for her to remember the ache in all her two-hundred
-and-five bones. for years to come, i lied
heavily compensating for a loss i did not understand,
that i was laughing when i was born– that i didn’t
cry even when i needed to.
my mother’s mango cheeks soon became
the pomaceous prominences of mine
my voice was a gift from my father’s Adam’s apple
he tells me the day i was born, i stopped a storm
of believers in a mosque who raised their hands
expectant in prayer, succulence synced to beg
he named me after my first victory– the peak
and a smile
that lives up to it.
lights, camera, break
this time, broken homes don’t make the cut.
they dragged their way in through singer’s quivers
and guitar shreds, cleansed of nothing but want;
look at their detest at normalcy, how they asked
to be undone, sewn apart from each seam
each intended thread drawn close.
they reek of reality clenching its fist around
a child’s throat; if only it broke,
so their fingers finally met.
not all broken homes are loud. they must be flipped over
and felt up when your wives no longer sleep with you,
they must be told of times before,
how your glass-cuts are not holy
how your wrists are the canvas of a doomed marriage
how your hurt is secondary
how your moving on is gotten over.
broken homes still have their stairs, no matter how many
hip dislocations take for you to reach the night.
the sky is never far;
its shade matches your draped body.
not all broken homes are found. sometimes,
they are only housed in the attic inside your ribcage
because your heart cannot be tamed
by “everything will be okay.”
your heart knows better,
sometimes broken homes are earworms,
your hearing is a house built on the smallest
conceivable human bones but you are a ruin
of a ruin of a ruin;
sometimes what you hear
is the strangling of silence right before you sleep,
the absolute assurance that the walls next to yours
are witness to rape, consented to
after years of protesting.
not all broken homes make the cut.
not all broken homes make it at all.
haider is supposed to mean bravery
I remember the thirst for your acknowledgement
etched at my throat and the acid
burning from ulcers I hadn’t
poisoned my teeth with
my tongue is still taut and folded
at the base-
“girls are seen, not heard,”
I was so eager to listen
for the next order, the next parliamentary
speech on modesty
as if a mother’s fear had taught me nothing
and a father’s silence didn’t make
through the attic of my chest.
you waited for my prostration –
me at my holiest to inspect my body
for foreign touch – and lit every hair
out of its designated place
puberty was streamlined and nulled
to meet your prerequisites but my tongue
that sullen, loose demon you tried
so hard to exorcise still bit
your undressed illness at its core
you asked me once where my pain
came from and how a body so fit
for your control could house it.
my mind has stopped racing
and my heart has learned to follow.
my skin has been recycled and learned
to fight exponentially harder if you are ever
my body has learned to exhume illness
like the acid reflux your face conjures
and exit relieves
oh my tongue just got sharper from
going to war with all versions of your perversions.
you wanted me to be a surgeon,
didn’t you? now watch this scalpel
of a poem dig under your nails for remorse
watch it delve into your chest for a closer
look at your manic ventilation
at my skilled hands
cut out your every
(your hollow is a ghost I have learned to unsee.)
Orooj-e-Zafar fancies herself a spoken word poet. Most recently, she has been published at By&By Lit, Voicemailpoems.org and Pankhearst’s Slim Volume: This Body I Live In. Orooj is also a poetry reader over at cahoodaloodaling and is currently trying to survive medical school in her hometown, Islamabad, Pakistan.