Meditations on the Naksa

Everything is a relic when you’re in exile.

Above my desk sits a half finished portrait of Ghassan Kanafani that a friend of mine from Lebanon painted. If stared at long enough, loud Beirut nights reveal themselves and the bright roars of intemperance swell around my empty apartment.

There are the prayer beads, their myriad colors bunched in an ashtray that bring me to the unforgiving heat of the Gulf, the remnants of Turkish coffee in a cup, the stories of my father.

The books, always the books, likes pillars of familiarity, they recognize me when I enter through the door. And my listless past, my sorrows and raptures, the lovelorn hours of my adolescence, they wait patiently to be revisited in those pages.

But these are all things I carry with me. They move, with the histories clinched within them, from the cities I find myself in to whichever I leave for next. They are thinned over the course of years, as some are misplaced and other discarded. There is no permanence to their placement. They, like their owner, are in exile.

Yesterday was the commemoration of the Naksa. The Naksa. The second chapter of our dispossession. Iraqi Swaydan to Gaza to Kuwait to America to Al-Ain to Tripoli to Beirut to Qatar to America.

Can relics be preserved under the shelter of  itinerants? I’m not sure of anything regarding these hoarded memories and relics except that there is no place to put them.

It may be petty and sentimental, it certainly isn’t profound, but for the past few days I’ve tried to articulate this commemoration and all I could think of, almost compulsively, were these relics and their homelessness.

This is the Naksa for me.

Diaspora is strange like that; it slowly unveils itself to be a long-term violence. Until you come to notice, over time, that home most closely resembles an airport terminal, that “return” signals nothing more than the concluding leg of a flight.


Talal Alyan

Talal is a Palestinian-American writer based in Brooklyn. He tweets here.

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