Nayrouz Qarmout writes from Gaza

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Do I continue after the 2014 war, returning to that shaking window, writing and writing?

It’s been almost seven years, and as the pain has grown, my pen, that extension of my body, has flowed. The wound has expanded with memory, and fitted itself, naturally, to the shape of a story.

My ear is to the window. As I listen, I think of it growing, becoming an eraser at the head of a pencil. It removes one pain and creates another. The hearing creates a bright, frightening place in memory. It awaits what’s coming: the screams.

It seeks out the pain of a child that it will, in a moment, bring to the surface; it makes a shadow where a mother once smiled. We live at the edge of a precipice that divides two lives.

In an instant, there is a plume of smoke. There are tears. They are hidden in memory, and in that eraser.  

There is a sound, and I remain behind the window. There is a thundering silence; it is numbing. The explosion inside me spills the blood of faces I’d surreptitiously hidden within me.

I was weary of today’s Nakba Day anniversary for the empty pain it brings. And yes, it is empty – buried inside a cannon, a battleship, a tank; it is now a plane that comes in from afar, blowing things up, setting off the memory. But it only goes off through my loyalty to the cage that keeps my people safe from harm.

Sheikh Jarrah smiles at us; the child in Gaza cries in farewell to his father. My memory is an eraser; it takes it all in, and it removes the feeling so that it can withstand.

Nayrouz Qarmout is a journalist, author and women’s rights campaigner. Born in Yarmouk Refugee Camp, Damascus, in 1984, as a Palestinian refugee, she was ‘returned’ to the Gaza Strip at the age of 11 as part of the 1994 Oslo Peace Accord, where she now lives. She has worked in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, raising awareness of gender issues and promoting the political and economic role of women in policy, law, and the media. She has won a number of prizes including the Creative Women’s Award for her debut collection The Sea Cloak, which was the bestseller at Edinburgh International Book Festival 2019.

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