In Lampedusa (a migrant poem, guest blogpost by B.G. Truan)

In Lampedusa

Neatly, in a row, on the docks, they lay.

Green plastic squeaking with soaked flesh

dreaded witness to events

stretching too far down the pier

right in front of the rescuers leaning

against the tired wall

sunk into the edge of the sea

     in Lampedusa

     last week.


From Paris

the journalists tell us how

those souls set fire to a sheet.

When the water started seeping in.

After the engine failed.

They don’t mention the name of the boat – 

or explain why there was no flare – 

don’t describe the immense drama – 

or talk about the absolute terror 

whipped up by kerosene bedclothes ignited

aboard an unseaworthy vessel.


Instead of telling us how


     as one body

hundreds of bodies edged…back… 

     from bright wild lash of flames

then how

     all that shifted weight

          tipped the heap into

      cold Mediterranean blackness


they shift too:


      into the Commerce of it all.


How many euros the poor travellers paid

to board the falling apart boat.

How many of the desperate make their treacherous way away

from Africa’s Horn each year.

How many people the overcrowded wreck held.

How many rescued from the nightmare.

How many corpses recovered.

How many still missing presumed dead.

They love the numbers.

Some simple mathematics could even tell

exactly how much the businessmen made

on this row of green plastic bags

and those swollen limbs

          piled so deep somewhere

in the watery Tunis-Palermo-Tripoli triangle.


After the numbers

they take their cameras to

a room full of reverence

of men in robes

to quote the new Pope.

Une honte, the journalists in Paris report: a disgrace.

The word that comes to Francis’s mind

when he comes to Lampedusa.


With the slightest of shifts

the cameras could show us

one of those small cities floating

here monstrous buoyant pleasure machines

vacationers dining gambling swimming shopping playing

thousands of them cruising in one gigantic party.


They do no such thing of course.


And obeying

we fail to notice this failure


somehow in a secret pact to

     Never     connect     those     dots – 

a line too short for comfort:

the thought of these two ships

sailing the very same sea

too awful for any of us to hold

in a single thought.


B.G. Truan

10 October 2013