the articulation of my vertebrae

by Orooj-e-Zafar

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released October 25, 2014



all rights reserved


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: coccyx - you are, you will be
my body
is beautiful–




try again with more
conviction this time.

my body is beautiful;
its curves ascend more than the rugged
Alps, they fall like contradictions
from a politically incorrect statement. my body is the
pavement of my mind’s highway but these
flyovers keep collapsing, I’m trapped
under the debris of esteem
(not self-esteem, that requires a mind-heart
team effort).

my lips have kissed all kinds of royalty;
my hands have polished enough crowns
and sworn fealty to the right people. My loyal legs
once opened wider for you to go deeper
but I don’t like thinking about that, I don’t like
talking about you.

start over and this time,
mean it.

my body is beautiful; have you seen
how my hipbones curve like wishbones?
(when you find me stuck between
your gravestone-teeth, will you promise
to break me homolytically?)

have you seen how my thighs purge
out of society’s idea of perfect, how my knees
have blackened with mainstream scrapings
of a childhood too far from me to keep
waiting to come back,
haven’t you seen my concave belly?
haven’t you seen how its crests remind you
of a siren’s home;
have you not seen how my ribs
kiss my skin with enough love to keep it
close? my body is home,

my body
is beautiful.

is this
real enough to remember?
I think I’ve made enough knots
to make this barbed-wire-eulogy
seem a little less of a fallacy.
can you pick the specks of dishonesty
out of my eyes, please
and explain to me why my body
is beautiful when my thighs keep wanting
to kiss their inner diameters?

can you please
tell me why it’s okay for breakfast
to cross over into spit
and acid? can you please
tell me it’s okay to feel like you need
to stop touching yourself
because if anything else,
owning myself
feels like I’m raping myself

and saying,
“I am beautiful,” is about
just as easy as fixing
my aching vocal chords;

I cannot make myself come
to believe that this body
is beautiful.
Track Name: sacrum - a vespertine haunting
i was once six years old
and i was once cradled
in the tired arms of a
desolate woman,
who could only cry
and she'd call sometimes,
"Cass," she'd say,
"baby, i've been drinking again
and your father left -
baby, he left and i can't find him."
i'd put her books away then
and try to find the pills
she never wanted to take.
"do you think he's hiding, Cassandra?"

"no," i'd say, and tie her hands;
i was so much more
of my father than i would have liked
to be, "he told me you need these."
"oh no i don't, baby."
"yes, Mama you do."
goes the goddamned weasel,
but now,
just in her
mind-bitten mouth.

it was silent in my room and silent
when she slept
but i was only six and the world
made less sense
to my squinted eyes and
disoriented speech because
the night was her haven -
i was her haven -
she screamed and turned
enough to make the earth's
rotation seem slower
and hours get longer
and the tick drag
fucking tock seemed more
and more interminable
than the first.

it was never silent when
i was six years old.

i was once six years old
and swallowed so many words,
i had to hold every syllable
with my father's Adam's apple -
it was only his apple
and my mother said she tasted it -
he once told me
that a man is defined
by how many words he can put up
in a fight;
he wasn't much of a writer
or a fighter, for that matter,
but to my surprise, he'd
only hold me tighter,
and soon, never again.

"baby," he'd say, "your mama's just been
playin'. you know how it is,"
and i'd nod my chubby head.
"she's just so tired from
loving you so much and loving me so much;
sometimes you have to stay away,
you know?"
"i think so," i'd whisper, wishing i really
didn't. "you'll come back soon right?"
i wrapped my rolled arms around
the warmth of his neck,
gripping the silence his words could never say.
his apple bobbed and i couldn't tell why,
he'd shake a little,
then look at me and sigh,
"never again, Cassandra. not this time."
and i suppose it was only
to ready my cavalry; i wasn't always equipped
for the battles i had to fight,
even when i knew that things
were never going to be
right between them

so when i was six years old, i
hid away books before my mother
all the words she needed to talk,
to sing and say, "baby i'm fine," to tell me
that dinner was always going to be ten minutes late,
and that the empty head seat
at the dining table was
only a reminder of all the words she missed,
of an apple only she
had kissed,
a silly
intimacy she missed with
delicacy stringing a bracelet woven
out of all the memories
she drank away.

it burned one day when dinner was late.
it rose in the air
and flew away.
Track Name: lumbar - reasons to fall in love with me
roll a list of statistics about
how much time has run out, to me
and I will write each second to have
ever passed, a love note.

tick, I will miss you,
tock, you are important.
tick, you were the only thing standing--
tock, between us and now it's over.


tock, you are still important.

tell me that the in-love are never
forgetful and I will answer with a corridor
of now switched-off phone numbers
that have kept me static and dizzy. it isn't
easy to lose track but I'll pull
back every knot out of our string
theory bond to sleep tonight;

you will too.

read every book I have given myself
to in holy matrimony and I will find
every word, page and chapter you consist
of, enough reason
to read you again;
I will always find ways
to love you again.

but sing all seven notes to me, say
no more exist and I will make
my piezo-electric crystals tease
and tremble ultrasound till it is heard
because everything should be heard, even
when I feel small
and hide the things I let

inside me to make small talk;

I will not feel it then.

dance with me and say, no two left feet
can synchronize and amplify
and I will trip with finesse, make
the breaking sonorous of my cheekbones
elegant and swallow chipped enamel
till you retract your entirely true
statement about my catastrophic fluidity.
I will not show you my hands;
their wave-particle duality only
anchors my will to carry on.

whisper isochronous nothings
to the small of my spine, bend
me into a submissive
contortionist and I will secrete strength
from my practiced immunity till it
is rigid again - until I
am rigid again but do not grieve.
I polish unconditional bed knobs
and door handles for those
left behind for
the minutes you will live for me--

ask me for the time and I will tell you,
I have never had any - I am honored
but I never kept it safe - I lost it
to bickering tour bus foreigners
and letting favorite songs complete
their audio tenure and sending
telepathic signals to every
moment that has passed;

tick, thank you.
tock, please come again.
tick, I cannot appreciate you in time--
tock, may we meet again someday.

tick, thank you
for staying.

thank you,
for staying.
Track Name: thoracic - a list of letters to things that stole my spine
i. to the itch of mind hives,
the crimson of their
and the sandstorms of
internal debris after--
fuck you.

my chipped, stubby
mind and blasphemous
crying-to-sleeps are owed
to you, old friend.

ii. to the lonely side
of my single bed, the vacancy
in my shelves for needed but
occupants and the nerve wreck
of a shivering impulse
i have become--
i love you
i love you
i love you;

this is a promise to yourself
you will only learn to
break twenty times

iii. to you, who
more cringes and
slammed doors than i could
muster and make
pretty, naked,
misinterpreted and
loosely connected,

am still
here. i
am still

iv. to my only
bonne nuit rouge et
de l'amour mort,
fuck you

actually, i hope
death greets you with more
familiarity than you
greet it with and waits
at the bottom of the river
for you,
when your lungs
are strangers to air
and your body
rejects survival
like foul

to my only
bonne nuit rouge et
de l'amour mort,
fuck you

v. to the incantation
of maternal instincts, alienated
utter fear of loss, driving
and water--
i am
fine. my shoes
numb my feet
and the hair
on my head
makes it heavy but you,
mother, you

are doing just fine.

(i have enough,
you are enough)

vi. to myself,

standing by may
make you the inflicted
on (it is better to be
this way), but it
doesn't make you
a hero either.

you are
tall but you never stand it;
you are beautiful
but you never act it. you are
a boulder curve that's
lost it and you
are better than this.

vii. to the mirror,
to the weigh scales,
to the whispers in hallways;

viii. to the cousins-entitled-to-be-better-
to the letter from my grandfather collecting
dust in my memories,
to the prettier, fairer bullies,
to everything i could never

am still
here. i
am still
Track Name: cervical - to the boy who doesn't plan on leaving