all the colors my hair has worn

by Orooj-e-Zafar

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this is what grew out of the places he polluted.
this is the story of how i learned i could still shake the earth with my voice.
this is my scream through all the battles he fought too, but lost miserably.
this is me, victorious, wearing my skin so proud.
all too loud for his eyes, look at all the colors my hair has worn.

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released November 4, 2016

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about

Orooj-e-Zafar Islamabad, Pakistan

I love stories and pouring meaning into everything humans do.

learning to be softer since '96.

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Track Name: prelude: all the colors my hair has worn
Copper
divorce
blue
bleached out
break, break, break
red

regret--

but none quite as patriotic
as it was
bunched
and pulled
in your palms.
Track Name: a map of trauma's brain
Start here, at south--
your coccyx is broken;
never birth again.

South is all there is.

Where are all the curves you learned?
You are only
one
comma
hesitant
to stretch;
he snatched the master
from your lordeses.

Your body is trying to embrace wide,
stretch from the west
to the east, contain the damage
where your heart once was.
Not every enemy looks the same,
every enemy is not your own skin.

Up north, the flower in your stem is breathlessly
yelling at your consciousness.
You are not vegetative, even
if you can't exclaim
as a comma.
Breathe.
Breathe.

Tremors. Everywhere.
He -
his sight,
his talking dirty,
his phantom limb -
is everywhere.

The compass could never give you
this motion sickness; he is sound, not
noise you can tune out. Your cortex has imprinted
the enemy and the most practiced,
associated, punished
memory.

You are here, contrite--
out of rage,
submitting to your humble,
drooping kneel.

Now, there is far less of you to take care of;
South is all there is.
Track Name: your name was 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
yet.
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
humiliation course
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
on rage.

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
didn't it?

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
near again

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

watch me
cut out your every
malignancy.

(your hollow is a ghost I have learned to unsee.)
Track Name: convalescence
every poem before this was a broken promise.

the next time my fingers speak,
my lips won't be ready for yours.

the next time my seething resolve crumbles like tea-kissed plain cake,
change my name; say it the way first-timers do. return my shame
at being the only mispronounced girl in class.

don't wait till my stomach remembers to eat, aching
at housing shard of claw-imagined nails, bitten to forget
the desperate in each fingertip. don't wait until they're ready.

the next time I'm so tired my tongue slurs and likes it,
tell me I can put myself to sleep at night. tell me his hands
were ready for more than the arch of my back no matter
how much he salivated at the corners of his mouth for it.

tell me I am more than this body;
some days it helps to hear I am more than the minutes
I spilled into regressing and forming into
this.

some days there is comfort in knowing
these limbs only carry my heart from one break
to the other. the breathing space in between
is where it learned to nurse spring.

the next time my mother says, "you were a spring baby,"
tell me March is only rain from the Western depressions
and drown every
last
echo of the choking readiness
of my hands.
Track Name: the fujiwhara effect
there
is a god in me and he
has swung his shoulders enough times
to call my body a rundown Richter scale;
but you, with your impaled Fujiwara,
slapping a borderline existential
crisis between Bonnie and
Charley,
you have tampered with my
oscillations, discarded me a tuning fork
and left for the storm cellars.

even the eye of the hurricane
wished it could've stopped its
airborne fury into a spit of casualties,
but me -
my body has been your storm surge
for as long as the earth has been
hurt with elemental catastrophes
and hypnotic man-made
dystrophy.

my gods have been pressed down
with ten thousand millimeters of unearthed
mercury, only to rub up your frictional
upwelling inside me;
you don't hear me over the static and
I haven't listened to enough
maydays yet.

have you
ever wished
to stop?
Track Name: memory
You could never touch this body in daylight;
I am still scared of the dark.
Track Name: what grew out of the places he touched
- home
- stiff hair on a stiffer upper lip
- his dignity
- phantom comfort, when it was over
- my daughter's resting head
- silver crescent and a winking star
- lemniscate tattoo
- I say I got attacked by a cat here
- skin stretched to hide my own bite-marks
- today
- kiss-shaped bruises
- deeper dimples of Venus
- butterfly, ready to take off
- home
- no more bitterness
- habituated stings
- my mother's crying laughter
- longer hair
- home