On Kashmir Becoming A Bombed Dotted Line



Maybe when the war is two years away from over,

when anguish gives way to the boulders of time and distance,

when jung is colored a bit more like the dying breaths of a banzai,


maybe then our not-battle-cries can be seen for unsalted earth.


Maybe then your perception can find another vantage point

to entertain. Maybe when Kashmir looks paler – paling to compare

or exist on the map – you can swatch cease-fires on the UN’s wrists.


Maybe once the brown from our blood fades, the end can be closer.


In the fourth grade, I remember looking at Jammu and Kashmir, dotted,

while the rest of national pride was one, uninterrupted black line.

I remember pointing and asking, “What did they do to deserve this?”


When no one knew how to answer a nine-year-old accusation,

I turned to my own devices. Perhaps if “Jammu an” could be split

from the whole, “d Kashmir” could belong to India – at least the name

maps gave this dispute, let me think this was possible. The math checked out.


Maybe when bombing is a worry of the past and not

the inevitable now, Kashmir can let its mountain springs breathe.

Maybe when flags aren’t hurled like insults – one dotted line

to the other – or maybe when dispute stops meaning

deaths that cannot be explained to nine-year-olds, we can let

our hearts bleed just enough to stop it from staining

our streets red. Maybe we can watch our outrage

color the land blue and green again. Maybe then, Kashmir will feel

a little more like earth, a little less like forest floor buckling at the knees –


a little more like late-sun pouring through always-winter trees, maybe just a little less

like the sound of pellets deafening and blackening the once-clean air.



To Terror, From the Ever-Aching Muslim Heart



It’s the women,

the melanin,

the cluelessness of children–


something about the helpless that needs

terror to hush,





It’s our skins exposing the fear underneath,

like creases on aging palms – almost

a vulnerable congenital accident –

our brown, unapologetic, laying claim on space

as if they can take up any without asking,


as if they deserve some, for existing.


No, our brown must be skinned from the vertex

of our offensive vaults to the pregnant bulk

of our toes; it must be scrutinized until

it is guilted and broadcast as a need for more

white– how did we forget the sun?


Too much white has always been scalding,

blinding. Our brown was a mistake the sun made –

an apology from our immunity, long standing

for days without shade.


How did it offend you so deeply you forgot

that our ears heard the same azan? Was it not

enough that we praise the same God, Seal –

fear the same Creator?


How long has it been since you held a mirror?

Are you angry the sun did not apologize?


Are the suns you place to blind innocents to death

enough of a penance? Is the sound loud,

desperate, enough to drown the ache of rejection?


How much more rage courses through your hollow?


How many more suns need to apologize?




You could never touch this body in daylight;
I am still scared of the dark.


Orooj-e-Zafar was most recently a recipient of the Judith Khan Memorial Poetry Prize 2016, a runner-up of the Pakistan Poetry Slam 2016 and is best known for her spoken word endeavors. Her work has been published widely online, making shy appearances in print. She currently resides in Bani Gala, Islamabad where she works as a city editor for The Missing Slate.

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