At Sea In A Coffin
“We were at sea in a coffin” – Anas, Syrian refugee aboard the Médecins Sans Frontières rescue ship, Bourbon Argus, in 2015
I sit in my room, where my 32inch HD
LCD eco-sensor screen shows 250 people
with no room to move, no shelter,
no lifejackets, full of smugglers’ promises –
of a bigger, modern boat, of 100 people,
of only six hours to Italy – in a wooden
tub with a bailing bucket sandwiched
between a RIB and a rescue ship.
Stay calm, stay calm, we will rescue all of you!
Ignored. In the rush they tread on each other.
One by one, slowly, slowly! Everybody’s getting off!
but they’re scrambling across all along the boat.
Man Overboard! The RIB goes over to haul
a large, bald man with scars on his skull
from the sea. He, at least, does not panic.
On the ship there is food and water and cover,
medics and a map which shows
they were only an inch off the African shore.
At least now they will get to Europe safely,
at least, they will reach the beach.
I look out of my window,
see the house across the road,
the beam of my neighbour’s TV.
The people at sea on my screen
can see to the horizon, can see the sky.
RIB = Rigid Inflatable Boat
Jill Abram is Director of the collective Malika’s Poetry Kitchen, which encourages craft, community and development, and is a Tideway Poet. Publications include Rialto, Under The Radar and Cake. She grew up in Manchester and now lives in London. Jill created and curates the Stablemates reading series at Waterstones Piccadilly. jillabram.wordpress.com