Noor Al-Naji

Diaspora Speaks

In 2005, the Jerusalem Municipality approved a law that Arab store owners in all of Jerusalem must include at least 50% of their signs in Hebrew. Since Israel’s occupation in 1948, Arabic names of stores, streets and universities have been changed from a once meaningful word in Arabic to a word that sounds Hebrew but is meaningless in both languages. This is called the judaization of Jerusalem.
I open my mouth to receive the regurgitated sadness
Fed to me by the bird mother of imperialism
She names me diaspora
Presenting her kill to  me, I feast
With every settlement she creates me I become infinite
Devouring the names of their roads
Too rich for settlers’ lips and I spit a name deprived
Of culture
Of origin
Of history
These names produce more of me
I grow infinite
Mother bird forges nutrients from families of Al-Nakba
The “catastrophe”
She feeds me 700,000 Palestinian homes
My enzymes break them down into loneliness
I follow it
I trace the loneliness to the lonely
Where I found a lost girl kept company by her isolation
Mother bird feeds me her name
Broken girl with a broken name
She forgot what she never learned
The names of roads too rich for settlers lips and so she fades
She pronounces her mother’s origin incorrectly and I am full from her disappointment yet infinite again in my hunger
Mother bird feeds me exotic foods
Iraqi, Yemeni, Egyptian, Syrian, Lebanese, Somali
They’re all so filling
And yet, no food presents itself quite like Palestinian cuisine
Once, I hunted
Made dishes out of battlefields and meal prepped the cut up languages of colonized peoples
I ate raw and slovenly.
I couldn’t get enough it was
It came to a point where I could eat whatever I wanted
Packaged ready for travel on my next adventure
I sought out new foods
In the white man’s search for spices I seasoned my palate; my favorite spice be refugee
In 1948 a new item popped up on the menu
How lucky I am that Israel tells you tells you I must be fed
How lucky I am that your laws state that the Palestinians must present to me their sadness
Decorate my plate with their Fathas, Dammas and Kasras in the wrong place
How lucky I am to feast like a beast on the Arabic words of a girl

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Noor Al-Naji is the daughter of two refugees forced to leave their homeland and move to a country that denies their heritage and existence with every breath. She is all of her mother’s hopes and dreams embodied in a young woman who has no idea where to funnel that responsibility, so she writes. She is a sociology major with a minor in Rhetoric & Writing and an associates degree in Arabic at the University of Texas at Austin. She was the poetry slam champ at her university’s qualifiers for CUPSI. She is the marketing director of LETS (Leaders in Empowerment Through Story), a mentor ship program at the juvenile correction facility in Austin. The childish part of her believes her poetry will free Palestine. The other part of her knows there is no harm in trying. She writes for the Palestinians who do not have the privilege of editing their words and worrying over what people will think of them. She writes poetry for her grandmother who relayed to her a history she witnessed, but now she must pass on her story from memory.  

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