thoughts & feelings

اسمي نورا

I’m stumbling through staggered comprehension and broken sequences of sound. I’m without a key beating furiously at the gate of centuries of knowledge, poetry, song. I’m too old to be so new; tantalized and terrified. 

Think of breathing; think where sounds are made where tongue hits teeth, infant noises. I roll the tongue and throw letters to the back of my throat with enthusiasm. I can’t claim the ة and my skin wont darken anymore; this sense of belonging doesn’t make sense. He tries to trace the letters, but the h is in the wrong place. 

Think of blood, of the blood in a name.

Hnora, root mother of the north, the cold, the wild. Mongrel lineage, under Arabian sheen it’s an anglo-saxon face and secret touches of Dutch, Deutsch. My parents’ blood runs far from this immovable heat, this desert existence, the way my body takes to the still air. Yet there’s calligraphy etched on my sides: ن ,ا ,ر.

I used to sit in airports, cross European bridges and name myself Julia. Spanish accent or not, I’d bear the mantle of a name with mixed heritage, crossbred and meaningless. I used to stay more than a month and feel the anxiety set in. I used to leave at the drop of a hat, love nothing more than trees lining the highway.

Think of belonging; think of staying in one place think of buildings read about community. Recognize roundabouts, memorize gate numbers, fill strong tea with condensed milk flavoured with cardamom, dissolving crystals of immature coffee. 

Think of peculiarity; it's like I’ve never heard my name before. Noor, Noora, Noura, shouted in high-pitched voices of children, posted on door after door. They're either scolding or joking how I wish I could tell the difference.

When I hear it I briefly belong, before blue veins shining through translucent skin bring me back to otherness.

In the souk a man sees my face, offers to write my name and we laugh. Nothing special here, sir. Now that it’s common I take my name for my own, leave Julia wandering Parisian streets.

Think of outsides and insides; of Pakistanis, Persians and passports. Run calculations between local, long-time, migrant; rejoice at the vagaries. I’m looking for ways to slip in and the holes are shaped like my name.

Shifting Identities  by Emelina Soares at Fire Station's "Artist in Residence" Exhibition, 2016.

Shifting Identities by Emelina Soares at Fire Station's "Artist in Residence" Exhibition, 2016.

Think about wanderlust and Bedouin footprints; I’ve never done well with inertia. Under the constant sound of creaking machinery and construction wind gently pushes sand in endless patterns.

Think of me standing on sand, breathing it in, rolling dust over my tongue. 

Thumbnail: Tasha Dempster