Zarnab Tufail

the rule book of how to be a woman: background

my mother holds a cloth of leniency in one hand,
the other hides the key to inside a chamber
made of rules and regulations
she says here's the key to the rule book of how to be a woman.
my baby fat is yet to depart but i could not stop my endometrium from running away.
somehow, it ends up being my fault
the chicken i ate, how i sat, how i played.
i had caused this early transition and i was bound to hate myself forever.

the rule book of how to be a woman: preface

sometime between the bottom of the seven-story stairway and our apartment's door
the word 'period ' changed its meaning and came pouring down.
the city's sky didn't rain & i had no memories of rainfalls
besides my mother's tears that led to my tears which led to my baby brother's
a chain reaction, i did not understand the cause of.
the city's heat wasn't kind & i had no familiarity with body shiverings
airplanes flew over our roof every night causing airwaves to synchronize contractions with me
my brother screamed because of loud noises while i begged my soul to leave this body.


Zarnab Tufail is a Pakistani pre-medical student. She is the co-founder of The Walled City Journal and editor for The Lumiere Review. Her work can be found here: