Dancing on Embers By Hafsa Mumtaz

Dancing on Embers

her kohl-fringed eyes – oblong

            ponds of imperfection

brazenness                               anathema

                                                acumen prancing like a horse in those pupils

                                                            rebellion painting crescents under the eyes

does she terrify you                            when you ogle her for she’s not wearing a dupatta?

                                                            when she flips her hair sans a bit of care?

                                                            when she shops in bazaars without your fear?

            you’re a sadist – rakish wolf ready to slay your “dear”

            she’s a menagerie – wildness breathes in her

(thoughts) encaged imagining in her skull

(passion) imprisoned throbbing in her ribcage

her bangles jingle on every Eid – the sign you

                                                            look for

to wolf-whistle at her

                                                                         to wolf her down with your “manliness” (brutality)

                                                snicker-snack in your eyes she discerns

            you can stone these “rebels” on Aurat March for protesting to get their rights

            but you can’t stone their flak-like words

that ricochet you as you unmask the beast inside you

that reanimate the suffering wives (stooges)

that question your mentality that is limited to what she wears when she goes out to buy grocery

oh, to be a woman on this land

is to be killed (by your kin) in the name of “honour”

                        for any reason that the males of a family find obscene

            is to (not cover but) hide yourself (not fearing Allah, but fearing men)

under a veil and an abaaya

and yet

be groped by a grey-bearded man

            because you raise ‘curiosity’

            is to be thrown acid at

                        if you reject a man for marriage

            is to get bumped off

                        if the meal you serve to your husband isn’t hot enough

            is to be called a hussy

                        if you march with the oppressed women on the roads who implore

to be treated as humans

is simply

to be dancing on embers

By Hafsa Mumtaz


Hafsa Mumtaz is a Pakistan-based emerging poet. She is a recent graduate of English Language and Literature. She only has one publication yet: ‘Like a Sip of Wine’ at an online journal Visual Verse Anthology, Volume 08, Chapter 09, published on July 26th, 2021.

Leave a Reply