Seafarers

By Gbenga Adeoba

The refrain of this water
says something is imminent,
says loss is upon us.
 
Bordered by kelp—
brown murals supple as wool—
and a cloud of winged witnesses,
 
our boat is somewhere
in the middle of the Mediterranean,
miles and miles from the coast
near Tobruk in Libya,
 
where we had camped
until the smugglers and the sea
spoke of its fidelity.
 
It was a soft, fluid tune:
the tender draw of water—
 
the sea, keen, humming
a promise of calm,
urging us to draw closer,
 
to unlearn all we thought we knew
about the posture of water.
 
There are dismembered boat parts,
whole dinghies, too,
shooting out from somewhere
beneath this expanse,
 
yielding us to catalogs
of told and untold mishaps;
 
the sea’s unfulfilled promises
to those who had knocked on its door,
those who sought to know its ways:
 
the Nigerian boy
comforting his sister,
after they lost their mother
miles away from Sabratha,
 
and those with whom
we had camped at the coast,
the ones who drowned overnight
some hundred miles
south of the island of Lampedusa.
What binds us,
in this boat, is a known fear,
a kinship of likely loss,
 
the understanding that we, too,
could become a band of unnamed migrants
found floating on the face of the sea.
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