all the colors my hair has worn

by Orooj-e-Zafar

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Copper divorce blue bleached out break, break, break red regret-- but none quite as patriotic as it was bunched and pulled in your palms.
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.
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.)
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.
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?
memory 00:16
You could never touch this body in daylight; I am still scared of the dark.
- 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


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.


released November 4, 2016


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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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