Birthmarks By Orooj-e-Zafar


My father kissed me in the womb right
where my palm meets my left pinky.

My July-cousin and I fell on the same patch of heaven’s grass
on the same leg and branded ourselves
with the same cylindrical melanin-scar.

I have five dimples and two raindrops
making quiet room on my smiling upper lip–

the only birthmark my canvas of a body hasn’t housed
yet, are the words my grandfather found
when his wife needed to see heavens’ gates
for the second time.

I don’t say it for the sake of poetry
but when she was gone, he cried so much
his eyes clogged with cataracts;
his body exhumed the fact that her cold bedside
was a part of the family now.

I have written nothing about the time he left me,
how writing was a pipe dream rusting under the breaths
of his wife and four children
until his depression clenched his chest
so hard his mind begged for air.

He forgot his wife and four children for seven days.

Writing brought them back; he could not bear
to lose them in his head yet.

Years that followed turned his bedroom into an office.
His plastic table stacked with photographs,
handwritten pages until leather-bound.
I remember his frail hands clasping
a pairs of yellow scissors, eyes scrunched in absolute focus.

He taught me what real loss looks like,
what fear would sound like if it opened
its doors to love banging for dear life.

He gave me my heart, my words.

See, if I sit still for too long,
I confuse my pulse for earthquakes;
this is the birthmark my grandfather gave me.

When I rubbed his cold feet
as he let his last breath go, he left:
his love for ghazals in my throat
his thirst for strangers’ stories in my ears
his beating heart, echoing still in the corridors
of my body.

Sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night,

my knees shake, toes twitch. It takes a while
for me to realize: it isn’t another earthquake.

By Orooj-e-Zafar


Orooj-e-Zafar writes to ventilate and is confident only in her ability to try. She lives in Islamabad, Pakistan, studying to become a doctor on the side but focused on being a spoken word poet. Most recently, she was a runner-up in the Pakistan Poetry Slam 2016 and is a poetry reader at cahoodaloodaling. She can be found at:

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