Syncope

"On the morning of March 27th, 2011, 72 people fled Tripoli on an inflatable boat, expecting to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa. Instead, though, their boat ran out of fuel and rather than being rescued by one of the many vessels in these highly surveilled waters, the boat drifted for 14 days until all but 11 of the passengers perished. Survivors recount various points of contact with the external world during their ordeal, such as a military helicopter lowering a few packets of biscuits and bottles of water. No vessel chose to provide any assistance whatsoever to the passengers. The events, as recounted by those aboard the Left-to-Die Boat, appeared to constitute a severe violation of the legal obligation to provide assistance to any person in distress at sea." (Forensic Architecture) “An act of recovery, of countermemory, of memorial, of resistance, Syncope represents one of poetry’s powers: to write the unwriteable, to bring voices, history, and lives forth from the depths.” — John Keene

from Syncope

there                 were                 38                maritime               vessels
they     were                  all ocular                                     if they chose to be



sight
is
for
seeing


naming
is
for
subjugating






if you’ve decided that
we’re
black mules
mules we know
are not
meant
for
rescue


we subalterned
we 72 are human
we 72 are oil slick and black
hungry for a spot of water, bread
recognition as human





our skin — that which contains us —
is exposed to the high
exacting sun
I thought this orb was god seeing us






there                 were                 38                maritime               vessels
they     were                  all ocular                                     if they chose to be


let us establish a fact:
eyes are for seeing
naming is for subjugating
a vantage is an equivocated belief
a border is shorthand for retreat




some said it was a tragedy
as if there were no fault to lay
I mean the faultless stars

the vessels — some we can name:
Méndez Núñez
Borsini



We are               Eritrean          Ethiopian       Nigerian          Sudanese
              Ghanaian



all the things they confiscate: our water, our food, our SIM cards, our jewelry

The Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Rome
Sent calls
               every 4 hours
               for 10 days
the math a facsimile
of our need
maps our waning living
an unidentified helicopter
lowers
biscuits and water by rope
they photograph us on mobiles
and view us through binoculars

there is the Cypriot vessel
Italian
Tunisian fishing boats

We are too black
too abject
our yearning too evident
the ugliness of our need

we waited for an aristeia
supposed it would come
some mighty force would
belie what
the fates wrought us

it was agonizing

imagine:
all our hope a
warped vessel
our bodies mere deadweight