Poetry: Elegy for Fakir Musafar, the Father of Modern Body Piercing

Our relationship to our heroes are often complicated by the faults of their humanity. Both with a sharp, unflinching critical eye and admiration for his contribution to body modification, the poet navigates us through the exhilarating history of Fakir Musafar (born Ronald Loomis) without letting him off the hook, “bleeding this man is a white body who leaves the country to study and comes back not with trophies only purpose.”



Ronald Loomis falls into a dream
on a South Dakota reservation in 1942 and in that dream

he learns that the body can be changed
in the practice of cave jungle desert dwellers

whose spears and scalpels were divine instruments.
When he wakes up he takes to his own tissue:

barbell animating steel ring tickling, experiments of flesh
for the modern age. The theft of names is a grave sin

but in these years of dreaming and bleeding this man
is a white body who leaves the country to study

and comes back not with trophies only purpose. He
becomes more than a man with a penchant for sticks

and arrows or exposed breasts and lip disks. I don’t
know how a man becomes a shaman an ascetic a fakir

and I still fear curious white men who are good
with needles but with each puncture Ronald Loomis

leaked out onto the ground across the Sioux land into the soil
of all the world’s bloodied people until no Ronald Loomis

was left for this world only a body willing to stretch
and ache and twirl in suspension savage hooks through

pectoral muscles; a bouquet of skewers across his spine
sun dancing above crowds in ecstasy a father reminding

children that there is power in ornament that pain is cyclical
that the body is honeycomb: a series of sockets to be fitted with gems.


Rita Mookerjee

Rita Mookerjee is the Ida B. Wells-Barnett Postdoctoral Fellow at DePaul University. Her poetry is featured in Juked, Hobart Pulp, New Orleans Review, the Offing, and the Baltimore Review.

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