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Century at Lampedusa


ISSUE:  Fall 2020

 

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land 

      —Warsan Shire

In rubber rafts on the open field of the Adriatic, open field of the Mediterranean. 
In a diesel-powered ship setting out from Hamburg in 1939. 

In newspapers, in the black-and-white way of newspapers. 
From the radio, the distress call hunkers and beams out. 

The image of a face rendered in dots per inch, a hand in dots per inch. 
Rafts black rubber, gray rubber, white rubber, green rubber. 

A refusal at Havana. A refusal along the Florida coast. A refusal at Halifax. 
Nine hundred thirty-seven aboard the MS St. Louis. 

Five hundred people aboard the sixty-six-foot fishing boat.
In the open field of the Mediterranean, a scrim of fire, a blanket in flames, a boat. 

The St. Louis leaves harbor, leaves harbor, leaves harbor.
Teenage boys with their hands threaded through chain-link fence on fuzzy film. 

He says to the reporter, my friend could not swim.
A girl wrapped in a shroud or blanket being carried in the background. 

Red-orange of life vests against the tourism-blue water. 
How many thousands, held in the hands of the sea. 

Turned away at several ports, it is estimated that more than two hundred were killed in the camps. 
Hands, fields, tin boats, rubber boats. Holding your child until only your child is above water. 

 

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