From the sand. From the swiping of palms on commuter runs. From the tossed-off free-sheets. From the grinding trucks on dirt tracks. From the furnace hulls and eyes and mouths of salt. From the white hunchbacked desks. From the discounted cocktails and vapid pavements. From the tortuous late-night news-talk. From the canvas cells with torn copies of Les Trois Mousquetaires. From the idling security and high wire fences. From the shell-shocked and the white shell beaches. From the atomised to the atomised. From the blood histories and the sorrowful tomorrows, here, now.
Please help us.
Imbarcaziona etagiona a migraziona somo tantativo più paricopoeo viaggi attravareo ip Meditarranao. P’asropa è eogno ma non eampra sn daetino. Carta-abbozzato nai cantri di raccopta eono piano par rifsgiati: sn po’ di eabbia eoffiati pop-spe in nord Africa a dap Madio Orianta, non eopsziona, a eiaeta par paca. Notizia dap fronta è di sna copoeeapa cataetrofa. P’smanitariemo divanta arroganza nappa bocca dai potanti. Raeoio-racinziona matappica non ei farmano i dieparati. Popizia anti-eommoeea eanno ecavato nai campi a Calais. Non naeesn poeto dova andara. A pondra, eo eantito ip esono di dsapping koras carcando armonia nappa notta.
The waiting is worst. He can feel the tension beneath his fingernails, his throat parched, dry with dust. There are maybe twenty of them loitering, shuffling off the attention of security, trying not to look as if they are eyeing the trucks and trains.
Night is soon.
Some of the jostling is for distraction. Four guys run as a decoy. There are only seconds to spare. Sprinting, leaping, hiding in one swift, planned move – executed to enter the tunnel. The trick is to keep clinging; the trick is to not fall; the trick is to not run out of breath.
I was told that water has memory. I can believe it. I think of how a drop – the cold moisture of a cloud, somewhere a continent away – might precipitate itself upon an azure sea. That it might get pulled this way and that, become submerged, forgotten, embroiled in the waves and the churn of marine life; that it might be lifted and fall again, that it might enter rivers, cross countries; that it might finally be taken along by a tide, that it might beach itself on closer shores, that it might pour from our taps, with its memory intact.
Dark thoughts could creep in like a virus. Like if he got Ebola, if someone gave him it, or if he went and made contact with someone and got it. You couldn’t check all the people and the places they went, and the sanitary conditions of places.
People buried such awful fears.
On the news they showed aeroplanes and runway tarmac, doctors all scrubbed and polished wards…
…except it wasn’t about Ebola, it was just about fear, some terrible imagining that under someone’s fingernails was the possibility of real harm, real crazy harm. There were days when he felt doomed.
It is boat season and migrating humans attempt more perilous journeys across the Mediterranean. Europe is a dream but not always a destiny. Paper-sketched holding centres are a plan for refugees: some sand-blown pop-ups in north Africa and the Middle East – not a solution, just a siesta for peace. News from the front line is of a colossal catastrophe. Humanitarianism becomes hubris in the mouths of the powerful. Razor-wire fences don’t stop the desperate. Riot police have bulldozed camps in Calais. There is nowhere to go. In London, I hear the sound of duelling koras seeking harmony in the night.
A decade’s unreported anarchy brings blood and dust, charted in numberless rusted cells where violence tells and torture proves.
They flee across the desert by truck, in the hands and debt of gangs, to make border disappearances.
In Libya and Yemen the smuggled bodies pay for thieved papers with degraded favours. Honours are all lost.
In the sea is the promise of every era’s castaways: souls strewn on the dark silent waves, squinting for island havens.
A small craft is a black dot in the indigo deep, the sun only a fire, a boat just another raft for the medusa.
The bird’s wings scythed through the morning air imperiously as it locked its position over some ground prey, unseen, scuttling in the wildnerness below. The long arc of those wings; I had seen something like them before. An owl, perhaps, or a bird of prey, a falcon or harrier, a raptor. Was an owl a raptor? Experts would know the difference. They would say they would. An owl, wise. A raptor, terrifying, bloodthirsty. But this was just semantics. The prey, doomed, did not care. I continued on my way. Geese rose up from the water. A distant siren. Church bells.
Kora of calabash, the bottle gourd lute, cowskin resonator, bridge and strings. Kumbengo riffs and birimintingo runs, across the wires of the dancing desert harp. Griot storytellers of Mali’s Mandinka, keepers of memory, ancient people of Sundiate Keita.
Plucking notes that quiver into being, hardly heard above the arid air or the brushing of sand under shuffling feet. A music that is only just, only almost, only about. A music that is almost gone, almost no longer, almost there. A music that finds space – in melody, harmony, timbre, pitch – in the uniqueness of individual notes, to draw a happy tune.
The first we knew was when the surveyor came to the village with measuring equipment. And armed guards.
Then the trucks and helpers came and a fence was built between our houses and the subsistence crops. They lifted the vegetables too early and threw them away.
We villagers shouted and asked many questions as they sowed the land for palm oil. An official arrived in a black car and explained to us about money and poverty.
With our harvest gone we now must get jobs to earn money to buy food. Work is far away and we have no cars.