Distance / June 2016 (Issue 32)

Ahmed's Chimera

by Paola Caronni

 ‘Ahmed’, Mum told me as I left her behind,
‘No distance really matters. You should go.’

Two months’ ordeal.
My body transported from one soil to another.
Crossing the desert on a truck
Thirty of us, soon a half.
My stomach growling,
Lamenting pains of starvation
The brain refused to acknowledge.
Heading North,
Surviving jail and torture,
Compulsory passports to our first destination.
Money buys all.
Even a passage to hell.

The sea, finally. That blue amplitude:
A liquid field connecting desperation
And hope.
Not treacherous,
Not an enemy to fight
Who spills blood on our faces and limbs,
Gunning down our families
Dismembering us – left homeless and rootless.

The Mediterranean Sea.
A treasure trove of ancient amphorae,
Their encrusted handles
Loops of passage for curious fish.
Remains of old vessels condemned to seawater,
Home to marine life and forgotten past,
Hideaways for predators and preys.

Then, like unmerciful hands grabbing the side of the
Crammed dinghy,
Waves rose and rocked
Thirsty men, hopeful women, crying children.
A traitor’s push
Delivered them to their destiny.
Troublemakers – they told us – do not deserve to stay on board.
Their bodies floated
With unnoticed commotion:
Patches of colour on the monotonous black.
They would soon sink, depart.
Engulfed, swallowed up by the abyss.

Our bodies pressed into others’,
Eyes as dry as our glued lips and thirsty throats.
Voices fell as silent as the frigid night.
A coward, mute by fear
I only muttered prayers to my God. And cried with no tears.

Unawares, the tiny dot, fogged, trembling under the heat of the
Unfriendly sun
Grew bigger, enlivening spirits
If any left.
The boat was lighter, devoid of painful weights,
Driven by a Charon carrying his last ghosts.

Lampedusa. A white beach, an island. No longer distant.
Dreams resuscitated, wrapped in blinding, metallic space blankets
And gave way to a chimera: to proudly look at the sea –

Not lying flat, the swash and backwash of waves
Wetting a grey motionless face and
a tiny body that could be my brother's,
Washed ashore on Turkish land.
But standing, toes in the sand, like a reborn man.
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