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Was watching an Inspector Montelbano programme – for linguistic

purposes, you understand.

It certainly wasn’t for subtlety, but the scenery is good!

Anyway, it was about migrants and I suddenly remembered my poem on

Lampedusa and thought I might as well publish it, rather than leaving it

on standby.

A local artisan made a cross from the bits of driftwood from the wrecks

of migrant boats and set it in a chapel.

So, here is my poem.

 

Lampedusa Cross,

nailed from shipwrecked lives, splinters:

Tuccio fecit,

amid Artemisia,

with Wormwood, like the toxic

star which fell to Earth,

corrupting all our waters.

Mugwort – protector

of travellers, from spirits,

malign and bitter –

why did you not help them live?

 

Francesco, you honoured them:

the Eritreans;

the Somali refugees.

You worked with the wood,

which tanged of salt suffering;

carved their scuppered crafts and

crafted signs of hope;

placed one above an altar;

trembled at its touch,

as if handling a relic

(as though St Paul had

blessed all those who washed to shore,

clinging to freed planks

not dissimilar to these.)

 

Castaways swam to

Coniglio’s lights, as if

striving to strand in Heaven,

kerosene-covered,

or later, wrapped in gold foil,

like saints receiving new robes

for abandoned rags,

once through the deadly portal.

 

Phoenicians, Romans,

Amazighs, Greeks, all landed here,

where Saracens sacked;

Barbary pirates plundered,

raking out slave loads.

 

The Marabouts were washed up

hereabouts, seeking

alms to fund their pilgrimage.

The Mare Nostrum

buoyed up Mary Magdalen;

John sailed to Patmos;

Thomas to the coast

of Coromandel, it’s said.

 

Sea-sick disciples

berated the Son of God

in a storm on Galilee.

He was still on board,

though He seemed to be asleep.

But, when He said, Come!

one found he walked on water.

 

In Lampedusa,

the sacred table, chalice,

fashioned from driftwood,

have been assembled from beached

flotsam and jetsam –

sacrosanct, reserved fragments,

though mere detritus,

from the high tide’s waterline.

Their significance

will grow, till the world is healed

by a Carpenter

who shows compassion for crowds;

loves the discarded

and creates His own kingdom.

His invitation

is to those no one welcomes.