They may have tipped it over themselves, rushing to one side of the boat – these boats that have no name, never mind the hundreds crowded onto them – in a pointless attempt to attract the attention of the Coastguard plane flying overhead. Pointless because the plane would not have been there at all, if it hadn’t been dispatched to track the progress of this overcrowded vessel.
Migrants, migrants everywhere, and all they do is sink. Another 50 died yesterday; 300 the week before. Close enough to Italy’s outlying island of Lampedusa for their African bodies to be recovered from the wine dark sea and treated like Europeans – the Europeans they were never allowed to become.
In the makeshift morgue, untidy plastic sheeting – stiff limbs poking out at random – gives way to neat rows of well-made coffins. White ones for the little black bodies of children. An extra large casket for a mother and her new born baby. Umbilical cord still attached, the body of the babe was found inside the dead woman’s leggings.
‘And she wrapped him in swaddling clothes….’
Leggings, jeggings; pushing and shoving. To get on the boat; to get off when it starts to sink. The whole, tawdry business of trafficking and signing up to be trafficked.
Now this: nativity scene drowned out; epic story of Homeric proportions; matter of life and death.
From the outside, it’s difficult to make sense of it. Those orderly rows of coffins which say, in their orderliness, ‘welcome to the EU’ – ludicrous.
Perhaps the survivor who was treading water with his baby in his arms and watched his son drown because he simply didn’t have enough hands – perhaps he knows whether the glass is half full or half empty.
But that’s copping out. How would that man, of all people, be able to achieve a sense of perspective? It should be me, from this distance.
Yet all I can see is water, water everywhere; and who knows what to think?
(With apologies to the Ancient Mariner)