Floating Coffins by Karlo Sevilla

(On the 2015 Rohingya Refugee Crisis, Lest We Forget)

 

I.

 

Because there are more atheists in heaven, a religious mob drove

both sinners and saints to the mercy of the sea. Stateless, they drifted

on land allegedly not their own. Landless, they drift on disputed

waters everyone claims to own. (If they can fly, not necessarily

on airplanes, they would, and risk getting shot down for not identifying

themselves properly upon entering an Air Defense Identification Zone.

Stateless, so no passports in their hands or pockets while wings flap

and bleed from their backs.)

 

Boats, floating detention centers of mothers cramped and cradling their babies

whom they can’t rock to sleep for lack of elbow room.

 

Boats, wooden vessels as unremarkable as their passengers are unsuspecting

of being deliveries of live meat to expecting brothels.

 

II.

 

And even among their own, dreamers not of mansions and luxury cars but of

meals three times a day were sweet-talked to a ride, sweet-talked for a ride,

sweet-talked and taken for a boat ride — by their very own.

 

Boats, among which Mohammad Tayub rode and immediately realized

the shattering of his dreams till his parents eked out the ransom.

 

Boats, pachinko balls filled with the dead and dying bouncing from one unwelcoming

island to another unwilling to add more suffering to its shores.

 

(Centuries ago, in other parts, unwilling passengers

thought of the sea as land: blue and quivering but solid enough

to carry their feet. So they jumped overboard for their last sprint –

downward.)

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