Lampedusa Beach

marcia-vaitsman-crop

This play appeared in Vol. 1, No. 3 of the American Reader, and was translated from Italian by Nerina Cocchi and Allison Grimaldi Donahue. Photograph (Impossible Bodies, 2011) by Marcia Vaitsman, whose work can be found at her website here.

 

The Dedication: To an actress who knows how to hold her breath. 

Who knows how to push the oxygen in and out of her lungs just enough to become an African refugee when she arrives on the stage. Who drowned in the waters of the Mediterranean, facing Lampedusa, who tried to fight the sea but couldn’t stay afloat, gasping for air for all eternity. 

The Story: A raft full of refugees sinks in the glistening sea off the coast of Lampedusa. The refugees struggle in the water under the pitch-black night sky. Most of them drown, die; the gradual silence slowly indicates the breadth of the disaster. A young woman manages to grab hold of her eyeglasses that have fallen in the water. For a fleeting moment Shauba manages to stay afloat, as if the glasses were in fact a life preserver. Then those same eyeglasses, like a disintegrating life preserver, carry her down, ever so slowly and ever deeper.

The Theater: The actress is seated in a chair with a bucket of water beside her, she tells of Shauba’s shipwreck. She has a pair of sunglasses in her hand. Every so often she splashes water on the lenses. 

 

 

The Actress/Shauba—long inhale

(Shauba talks to herself, like a wave collapsing and turning over and over again on itself.)

“I am Mahama the Affrican.”
“No Mahama, you are the African.”
“No Shauba, I am the Affrican.”
“No Mahama, you are the African.”
“No Shauba, I am the Affrican.”
(Shauba, determined, convinced.
Patient like a wave that cannot fight against its own current.) 

I agree Mahama, you are the Affrican.

(Shauba—the wreck—the fall into the depths of hell)

 I obey.
I say yes to Mahama.
The number of “f”s isn’t an obstacle.
Facts are.
The “f”s are bits of sand stuck on the tongue.
An African stutter.
There is no blood in my sad heart.
Everything slows down. 
My head is about to leave my body
Where will this body lie?
In the water? 

Today I say yes to my beloved aunt.
To Mahama. 
She let everyone leave, but not herself. Mahama says,
“I don’t go, I push the boats out towards the sea,
I help get them away from the docks as fast as they can.”
I know Mahama. You make a great effort with your tongue.
You want to lend the boats some favorable winds.
Like the spinning turbine at the bow of a transatlantic ship.
Fffu-ffu-ffuuuuu
Help me die.
Drown me, drown me.
Wrecking me into this sea.
Neither my hands nor feet nor back, not a single part of me
knows how to change course like some champion swimmer.
I descend to the end of the sea.
A vertical fall.
An enormous pressure around my head pushes me down.
It’s got the grip of an assassin’s hand.
Mahama I am under water.
Away, away, sailor from hell.
Get away from me.
The mere thought in this opaque immensity
that something might brush against me stops my heart.
Mahama, you know how I hate physical contact.
I am too exposed.
I don’t want to die like this, of shame.
Fish I’ve never seen before come up beside me.
Corpses. Human corpses. 

The wreck was complete.
But it did have an absolute simplicity about it.
You know why? There was no storm. 
There was no struggle, no resistance.
No demonstration of seafaring competence.
No call to the captain.
No warning. No alarm. 
There was no great wave.
Nothing that upset the sea.
The sea is innocent.  

Inhale—silence

I have a stomach ache.
I get one as soon as I hit the water.
This is not the tub where my mother
washed me.
I’ll never get out.
I won’t be picked up in her arms to drink a glass of warm milk.
In this weighty immensity
you’re damned if you’ve got a stomach
damned with chronic pain.
Let’s give it another “f” Mahama.
Afffrica!
If I make my tongue pronounce just another “f”
I can taste something of the earth.
As if you were listening and I would respond.
“EFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF!”
I must be buried.
Like our ancestors. 
I am afraid of being drenched.
Like everything that can’t stay too long in the water.
Like drinking more water than the body can contain. 
Bury me in the ground and I’ll be dry again.  

Inhale—silence

Mahama’s “f” is the little disturbance
of those who haven’t studied.
It’s a vain hiss on the back of the teeth
that can’t control the tongue’s wild passion to speak.
I am a wreck with no end,
because my wreck is not something that concludes.
I begin to like the hiss of the old woman
as if standing before death
nothing else existed.
Does the vision of life shrink so much
when it is about to end?
I learned something in a Mission where
I lived during the rainy season.
They kept me out of the humidity because of my weak lungs.
A nice little house, white, one floor
it was the only decent structure for three hundred kilometers.
Mahama really sent me there because she listened
to everything they would say about Rome.
She insisted that in a Mission full of priests
they would have to talk about Rome.
I told her the bits I heard.
And brought her a postcard stolen from a girl
who received money each month from a couple there.
I pretended not to know,
but Mahama’s mind worked like a travel agency
for a woman in search of her fortune.
Surely Mahama imagined
that once I disembarked at Lampedusa I would be off to Rome.
That was the destination she dreamed for me.
Once she tried to reason with a clerk in the immigration office.
The clerk ordered:
“Go and get that whale out of your mouth then come talk to me.”
See how we call it
whale in the mouth.
The specialized jargon is more like consonantism.
But so close to death I prefer
the whale in the mouth….I feel it on my skin like enflamed scales.
I am certain fish must eternally suffer from it too
always immersed in water.
The tip of the tongue swollen from making all those “f”s is
no less significant than the life of a fish, Mahama!
How I understand you!
Where I was born, if a woman has a problem,
she goes to the Affrican Mother and the Affrican Mother solves it.
The Affrican’s client stops the suffering even if she’s got to wait
a lot of time to solve her problem.
If during the year the problem persists and the client
falls back into melancholy like a gust of wind
at the base of life, something we’ve all known,
she explains everything with CCappittallisssmm.
She says that since CCappittallissmm arrived in Affrica
one day you eat one day you don’t.
Survival depends on the kindness of Cappittallisstts.
All of my aunt’s clients suffer from hunger.
Even my mother went to her with a problem.
But she had a question bigger than the whole of Affrica:
“What do we do, my children and I, the days with no food?”
Mahama responded:
“Have the first one leave, have her leave on a day with no food.
Those who remain will watch her set out,
it will be their duty to cry.
When the heart suffers there is no hunger.”
My mother responded:
“One daughter for each day with no food? No one will remain.”
The Affrican was not able to calm all the anxiety of my mother and all the mothers.
One day she gathered all of the women in the neighborhood:
“If your children would fall in love there would be no need for Ccappittalismm.
Lovers can live on air alone.
The little food we have we could divide between the days with food and the days without,
and they could all be yes days.”
The mothers asked:
“What does love bring?”
They each thought of their own life and remained silent.

The Affrican prepared for my departure.
Three million in cash,
three years savings.
Mahama kept contact with the smugglers.
She did it naturally, not because she agreed with their methods.
She holds that when crime gives you what you need
it’s better to be a determined bitch than an angel
or an innocent girl reeking of vulnerability.
“All set.”
Mahama came to tell me on July 7th.
“I checked everything myself. No one was the wiser.
I sneaked onto the ship pretending
to be the mother of some smuggler taken by the police,
a tip from an old man used
to accepting bribes from every side.
I faked concern for my imaginary son. 

They shut me up.
They wouldn’t let me say his name,
better that way since I didn’t know his name
but only his story….
A smuggler in prison cannot have contact
with the people he once knew.
But I did have time for a quick look around.
The stern is rusted.
The bow had been given a fresh coat of paint;
my heart sank just looking at it.
Don’t worry
all of our men are good sailors.
Even the laziest, the least honest knows how to navigate a boat
and bring her home.
Some advice.
You have to go to the head of the line.
Quickly. When you embark head towards the bow.
The bow Shauba!  You must go to the bow. 
The boat is open, unshielded from the sun.
Even if there were some protection you would have to fight
with a whole mass of Affricans over the same corner of shade.
Seven-hundred of you leave together.
Seven-hundred bodies is too many for an old cradle
that couldn’t hold more than a set of twins.
You need glasses.
Hold them fixed on the horizon. 
You should always know which direction you’re headed.
With a pair of glasses nobody can trick you.
You’ll know when you arrive.
Smugglers don’t always tell the truth…
once they turned back around
but with only half the people they left with
no one ever learned anything about the other half…
another time they tossed everyone out of the ship in the middle of the sea
like a pot of dirty water….
It’s like this because whoever’s on that boat is illegal
he is excluded from truth….He is hidden from everything.
No one’s ever seen a postcard from Lampedusa.
No one’s ever received one.
No one knows what happens there.
When you disembark it isn’t guaranteed you’re on Lampedusa.
But you, Shauba, under the burning sun, you’ve got a pair of sunglasses
and you can watch in front of you,
the smuggler cannot fool you.
He must take you to the destination on the postcard.” 

I left on a day of no food.
At the end of a secret meeting with Mahama.
Ten postcards were spread out on the table, to study the journey.
Like a map in the hands of a spy.
They were regular postcards, they came in the mail.
But how did she end up with them?
It’s silly to ask all of these questions right before leaving.
With sunglasses firmly planted between the nose and ears.
I got a spot by the bow, like an eagle who knows his place.
I never took them off again. Held behind the ears with a string
to keep the sides in place.
I felt like a 1930s airplane pilot,
like in the films sent from Europe
to show us the wonders of the developed world.
Mahama!
I did everything exactly as you told me.
I strayed only once.
I tied a coconut bowl to my waist.
I wanted to bring it with me even if it was prohibited
to carry weight or burdens of any kind.
It was perfectly hidden under my scarf.
Every so often a smuggler, one of the younger ones, stared at me
between my legs.
I thought of the coconut bowl and I held in my stomach
to lend space to my hidden object.
He thought about my cunt.
And in some way he was suffering too. 
The head smuggler, to make more money,
didn’t allow for an inch of free space on the ship,
so there wasn’t even the space to rape the girls
which the young man was thinking about doing since departure.
They stuffed illegals all around
even in the spaces reserved for violence and rape.
Mahama wouldn’t believe it, but they did it anyway. 
They did it anyway with nowhere to go.
You’ll ask yourself how it was possible.
You trust in space, because you told me,
nothing happens if you can’t get around things.
For you it was a moral question.
As I drown I need to tell you,
I need to tell you the truth:
Affffrican women must travel to Europe by plane,
not by boat.  

Mahama, they did it. 
They did it anyway.
They forced four men and four women
to lie as couples on top of each other.
Then others too. A human woodpile.
The young smuggler grabbed me and held me against him
forcing me to walk on the bellies and heads,
all the way to the top.
I held tightly to my coconut bowl.
He hit me and said with a slobbering mouth:
“What do you think is going to save you, you dirty little nothing,
you are outside the law, there is nothing here worth defending,
you bought me to carry you to the promised land,
what are you going to do there?  If you don’t do it for us,
why would you go do it for them? Money!
You bought me too, remember?”
An older smuggler, excited, interrupts.
First he says: “You bought me too. And for me you paid more.
You paid more for me because I am the one who commands this vessel.
If I didn’t want you you’d still be hanging on the rocks.” 
The older smuggler stepping on arms, heads, and all the rest
climbs to the seat of violence.
I crouch frightened on the back of the man in the human heap.
Someone beneath me tries to utter something.
The breathless voice fades leaving me with the saddest
sensation of claustrophobia I have ever felt.
I can tell you what it meant Mahama!
I can tell you what the voice wanted to say.
“Don’t be afraid, we will get off this boat and you will be pure again….
I had hidden two bottles of coconut milk in my books.
Do it. We have to get there.
On Lampedusa we will bathe you in coconut milk and you will be our queen.”
What do you think Mahama?
My heart swelled before I drowned. 
I thought of the human mass beneath me.
I tell the one on top:
“Muhammad, I am certain that is your name, ask the one beneath you if he still breathes.
Does it make sense to sacrifice oneself if only one other
has stopped breathing?”
Mahama!
You taught me to look with respect upon the mass
because on the days with no food the coconut spirit stays alive.
But there were new facts to add to the catastrophe.
Things that neither you nor I had taken into account.
The real danger was the anger between the young smuggler and the old one.
A tower of seven-hundred bodies is shaky enough left on its own.
But up at the top if two men fight for one woman
and the seven-hundred illegals tremble with fear unable to react
the problem is no longer about morality,
nor shame,
nor the spirit of the coconut.
The problem is balance.
And on the sea this is everything.
It happened just like this.
The weight suddenly shifted from one side to the other.
The boat tipped back and capsized.
And like that we all fell into the sea. 

Mahama! 
I cry Mahama!
I cry for you.
From that peak, for a brief second, in the violent swaying of the boat,
I saw Lampedusa.
I saw it with your glasses.
Before drowning I want to tell you how it is.
Lampedusa is bright.
It’s got a blue speck on the highest part of the coast.
It’s got a golden halo to the right, I don’t know if it is the beach
or a strip of desert heading towards the sea like at home.
A palm tree in front of the house nearest to the coast
it seems like the wisp of a queen’s hair grown with coconut milk.
I saw the fish moving around together
and the rocks around Lampedusa: the fish collide into them without being hurt.
Like at home.
I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that Lampedusa looked just like Triburti.
I smiled.
The new world seemed so small that I thought:
“Is it worth going all the way to Lampedusa to feel at home?”
But there is no time to think otherwise.
The antechamber of death imposes its own rules. 

How terrifying! Who’s there?
A shadow approaches.
It delves quickly into the abyss.
It is a corpse. From the human woodpile.
The stomach slain.
Slaughtered by a shark.
The lunch from a yes day stolen.
Rice, kibbles, canned meat.
The liver hangs from the stomach.
What will happen when it reaches the bottom.
What will happen to me.
The horrors, Mahama!
The sunglasses resist the body’s weight.
Like they are pulling me upwards.
Like a lifeboat.
For a second I push my head above the water’s edge
like a cork escaping a bottle left to float.
I suck in the air like a pump.
It takes every ounce of my energy.
The weight wins again.
So I descend, I descend Mahama, again,
down again, I hang onto the glasses
like Mary Poppins with her umbrella dragging downwards.
Maybe I should remove the coconut bowl,
lighten my body, and turn the umbrella around
and maybe I could get back above the water.
I don’t have time to decide, to evaluate
how to defend myself against the void of eternity,
what tricks to use…
I am at the mercy of something that will neither let me live
nor die…what does Muhammad say in these situations…
you never told me…why…
the water doesn’t completely kill me…
I lose my left shoe…
one foot is freer than usual
but if Muhammad replaced the shoe
with a flipper like a long distance swimmer?
Mahama, if you had given me goggles
and not these sunglasses maybe I could have managed
an underwater journey…
Towards Lampedusa or back towards Affrica?
Going back there would have been a defeat.
But arriving on Lampedusa would have brought with it
a great sense of guilt.
You wouldn’t believe it, but when that smuggler, that excuse for a man
tried to tear me apart like a piranha,
he killed my faith, your faith in the journey.
His words so full of hate and filth
opened my eyes: you and I, Mahama, we have done it all,
we have done illegal things to get to the world of the rich…
Mahama, the rich are Ccappittallisstts…
You didn’t realize? You didn’t want to tell me?
With that secret you wanted to keep sacred the journey?
I suffer, Mahama, I suffer.
I suffer because that filthy smuggler
entered my conscience.
I suffer because it wasn’t Muhammad who spoke
to my heart and mind.
I suffer because I stand alone before
such great obstacles.
I suffer because you and I are more ignorant than we imagined.
I suffer because I do not understand this sea.
I suffer because I am dying. 

My stomach hurts…Mahama…
My intestines leak something.
Giving into the pressure of the abyss.
I cannot control my bowels.
I have diarrhea.
It is nothing in this vast salt water.
It vanishes without a trace on my underpants
that billow like algae on the rocks.
Self-cleaning.  
I feel maternal over myself.
I do the work of my own mother.
I elect myself queen of this immensity while the mollusks dance
towards my mouth.
I am completed with water, after having swallowed fire, earth, air,
in that continent, Africa.
In the house you know and that shared a wall with yours:
twenty-four inhabitants altogether,
parents, children, grandchildren, family, neighbors,
we breathed, we had dirty feet, we radiated heat.
Only this. Neither dancing on the beach, nor meetings between men and women.
It was too risky.
It was prohibited to bring other fires home,
other earth, other air.
Because of the poverty.
Now who will defend me from the male corpses?
There are already so many in the abyss.
In the wreck some were heavier,
others lighter.
What does Muhammad have to say.
Are the proceedings just?
The proceedings depend on the situation,
how my body is found, so I worry,
I worry that everything is not random. 
In Lampedusa the guards watch the waves
for the bodies from the most recent wreck.
And on the other side?
Mahama what are you doing?
What do you do as you await my corpse?
Will you descend into the water rummaging for my body?
Has Muhammad prepared Paradise? 
Nothing moves in this eternal space.
Everything is still.
What is happening Mahama?
Help.  A shadow covers me.
A swordfish approaches. 
Its eye frightens me. 
It presents an unfamiliar challenge.
Do you remember?  I can still hear those words:
chista è la storia di un pisci spada             [This is a story of a swordfish]
storia d’amuri                                                  [A love story]
ddaie…ddaie…ddaie                                   [Now now now now]
lu vitti…lu vitti                                              [I saw him I saw her]
tira la fiocina…ddaie tira la                         [Throw the harpoon, no throw the                       fiocina...                                                        harpoon]
la pigghiaru la fimminedda                     [They caught her the female]
rittu…rittu na lu cori                                      [right into her heart]
e chiancia di duluri ahiahiai!                  [she cries out of pain Ahaiaiai!]
Ahiahiai!                                                         [Ahiahiai!]

…                                                                    ….

It’s a song by Domenico Modugno
The sailors carried it to Affrica like a trophy
from a fishing trip to celebrate the end of the year.
…I know it by heart….
I learned it secretly…
The men were covetous of their music…
They didn’t want women listening to it…
They played it on the beach every night
hauling out the old record player a Sicilian crew had given them
in exchange for permission to fish our waters. 

Shauba sings—long silence
 

Dear Italian Prime Minister
Take away the water between Italy and Affrica…
We haven’t got the right vessels to make the journey….
We haven’t got electric pumps to fix this mess
They told me someone named Leonardo could do that job….
Take away the water and you’ll see that deep down Italy and Africa are united…
Look at my plan:
First I’ll work as domestic help for an Italian family
I’d like a Ccappittallisstt family
I want to see how Ccappittaallisstts are up close
Mahama taught me well how to pronounce domestic help…
I won’t be an embarrassment, I swear…
maybe I’d make a better babysitter…I love children…
But I would be happy either way…
After working for one year I will become a working student.
Night classes. Information technology.
After I’ve gotten the diploma I’ll get a job
in an office in Rome and I will do input all day,
or maybe they say typing?
I’ll go back every so often and visit that Cappittallisstt family.
Because I get attached to people Mister Head of State.
Do you eat? Do you leave crumbs? Do you have children?
Can I come work for you?
But my plan doesn’t finish here.
With my speedy typing I will become an expert.
I will become an Iccarus! No, what am I saying: a hacker! 
Forgive my mistake.
I learned this word on my own.
You can tell Mahama didn’t help me.
Mahama condemns subversive ideas.
I’ll break in to the Prime Minister’s home computer.
I’ll see what no one else can see.
Shauba/Iccarus/Hacker will dance naked around the law.
She will confound you because in your computer
there are only masculine laws…
I will lay out on the hard driver, is that what it’s called?, with my thighs wide open…
The excited files won’t notice the color of my skin.
They’ll come to me like flies.
I won’t be responsible for this,
it is man’s nature.
They complain about men and how they behave Mister Italian Prime Minister…
Things being as they are, out of a question of morality
I would advise closing the State for at least one hour.
I will stand back, but you will close off, hide away the shame.
I will show you the way to the biggest Affrican exodus.
I can do it in one hour.  If you close off. If you close one eye.
I have to help the ones like me.
Another boat is arriving in Lampedusa.
My cousin is there. On another boat is my cousin’s family.
On another one is the first pregnant granddaughter. 
Because Dear Italian Prime Minister we Affricans are
like a broken pearl necklace:
unstrung one by one.
Someone falls into good hands, someone is lost.
Someone arrives at his destination.
Someone drowns and everything ends. 

Inhale—long silence

Mister Affrican Head of State
I am no one to you.
Also to your employees, your doormen, your gardeners…
That time I came to ask the names of
those Europeans who sent me money…
Twenty thousand lira a month until the age of eighteen…
no one spoke to me
even after sitting there for five hours.
I got the information anyway.
A charity found out that those Europeans
had died years before, guess how…
On a sailboat caught in a terrible storm
heading towards Affrica…guess what else, they never found their bodies…
They must be here…in these waters…
You know what I think Mister Head of the Affrican State…
If you could get a boat to carry them home too…
But by now what difference could it make… 

I’m rotting in the water like a leaf.
I feel so strange…my heart floats…
It feels like a paper boat in a leather sack full of water
so full it will explode…
It almost makes me laugh…maybe this boat
will get to Lampedusa…
But before the boat spills out of the sack…
Out of this body I want to say…
Let me tell you something I only have the courage to say because I’m here.
The yes days of Ccappittallismm I felt like a mongrel
On the no days I felt like a hopeless child.
Let me tell it to you straight Mister Head of the Affrican State…
Let our children grow with no hope.
It’s better.
Close the door to kindness…I hate kindness, it stinks
like rotten food, like garbage, like dried fish…
If you really want to do something for me and those like me…
Buy us a cruise ship… let us travel for one week
on an important ship…
Don’t worry if we are formless corpses
if we’re only the leftovers of the fish’s dinner…
Someone’s missing a leg, someone else the head…
You don’t see us…you turn the other way…
But you send us on a cruise…you take us on a vacation around the Mediterranean,
like ladies and gentlemen like your relatives and those of the Italian Prime Minister.
Grant me one last wish…
If the Italian coast guard finds my coconut bowl
will you ask the Italian Head of State…
Even if it is a long tiresome process
to bring it back to Mahama…
and if you like you can put it in a museum…
I am the representative of a social phenomenon
it is important to preserve the evidence…
it is your story too Mister Head of State,
you can’t ignore it.  

Inhale—silence

Mahama! Mahama! 
There is the outline of a full moon…I can see it,
I can see it from down here…
The water unfastens its right circle…it changes…
It wavers like a leaf, it rocks but loses shape.
My head brushes up against it…nothing happens.
But it is the signal.
I have my period. 
I have water in my lungs. I’m afraid. I can’t scream. 
Is death like being gagged?
I’m afraid of the monster. The same one you knew.
You told me about it: you told me to stay away from everyone when I had my period,
the scent of blood brings out the worst monsters.
Old navy admirals lost in the abyss…
and what if they’re Ccappittallisstts?
I go under with my trail of blood…
The red trail fades into the depths…
It is the last line I will draw….
With the monthly death of a child
you explained to me that if there isn’t space for what must happen
you can squeeze out some blood, force the body in…
this time it didn’t work!
Why haven’t the wreck and the loss of consciousness stopped
time, space, the body, blood,
fear, violence, history,
memory, morality, the elements themselves
why haven’t they stopped
travel, hunger, the economy
interests of the state, exploitation, the monster,
the boat, the moon, the wind,
this dead calm, diarrhea, fish,
humidity, bronchitis, the postcard,
the Mission, the rock, illegality,
emigration…
Mahama all these things are still going!
How can eternity be so material? 

Inhale—silence

Mahama, the moon has vanished.
Morning is coming in Affrica.
I no longer have a body to send back to you.
Don’t wait for anything to tell you how you were right.
I sink among false passports
plastic bags, threadbare jeans,
human heap void of bones,
faded papers… half-eaten sandwiches…
a single toothbrush…
a single toothbrush between seven-hundred illegals…
This is the inheritance of the shipwreck.
The coconut bowl is no longer with me.
The violent current carried it away
whipping against my side.
“Holy Coconut pray for me.”
Wherever you wander, wherever you find yourself a foreigner,
pray for Shauba, for her body and her soul,
they are already two separate things…
one travels to the bottom, the other I don’t know…
get me out of this humidity…
lay me out under any sun any day… 

Inhale—silence

I touch my foot to the sea floor. I have arrived.
Then a surge. The contact disrupts the water.
It seems like sand. 
Maybe it is Lampedusa Beach,
the part under Lampedusa, a beach for those who rest below,
a color never seen before, abyss and shade.
My hair flies in the dark water like fluorescent algae,
schools of bluefish swarm around me…
a bluefish kisses me…at least I think so…
it brushes against my mouth…it can smell the gangrene
or is it a sudden exchange of love between species?
I kiss her back.
This interspecies exchange is the high point. 
It is a crucial moment.
Can a gurgle of water
be considered an orgasm? 
I indulge. It is the final farewell. 
We kiss with passion. 
I try to understand this pleasure. 
I don’t care if the fish is male or female.
It’s all about the end, my end,
in the immediate semi-conscious everything is there,
between me and the bluefish.  

Continuous inhales—sloshing water

Lieutenant in the barracks of Lampedusa Beach
I plead for political asylum.
You tell me: what sense does it make now that you’re so close to death?
And I tell you: I think of it differently, I disagree. 
For those who think differently, one place is not the other
like all of those who must beg for bread.
I plea for a place that lets me have my diverse thoughts.
That is why I fled to Lampedusa Beach. 
Believe what I say.
International law states you must believe what I am telling you. 
Don’t try to argue. You’re just working here
on a border your feet always immersed in the water.
According to Mahama’s postcards
it is here one pays the toll for the passage to freedom
from Affrica to Europe.
What sense does it make once you’re dead?
I turn the question to you.
What would it cost you to grant me asylum once I’m dead?
Write, write the questions. I will sign. 
The Italian Head of State will do the rest.
Don’t tell me it will take too much time.
No one can take Muhammad’s job…
No one can take the job of your god…
In such an extreme situation the two always find an agreement,
end up offering us some similar compromise.
Do something important. 
It isn’t very dignified to be a Lieutenant and just stand there taking names
of illegals, encircling them in a fence, counting them at night.
Don’t you ever doubt your numbers? That one has run off?
If I were still teeming with life, I’d try to run off too.
Don’t worry, don’t be so defensive, we are and always will be innumerable…
Is this what you dreamed of all your life?
Deep in your heart, haven’t you rebelled even once?
Admit it…admit it…
Think about it: you can’t stay where you were born forever
when you discover your executioner was born there too.
What’s that got to do with anything?
You ask too many questions, like you’ve never lived.
The Europeans have calculated that each
of us has seven look-a-likes in the world,
the Affricans have calculated that everyone’s
got his own executioner someplace in the world.
You’re born lucky if your executioner lives in a far off country,
with the certainty that you’ll never meet.
If mine had been born in Australia I wouldn’t be here
asking for political asylum on Lampedusa Beach.
Mahama believes that your executioner is hidden among your seven look-a-likes.
You’re in danger. How can you recognize your executioner
amongst seven people so similar?
Did you ever think to escape?
Come to the Affrican State.
I’ll tell Mahama about you, she’ll give you political asylum. 
Mahama is a great lawyer, she’ll get it for you.
I beg of you, go there while there’s still time. 
Write…write…
I can tell you what to say:
I, Lieutenant under the orders of Lampedusa Beach,
with Shauba, on her deathbed, as my witness,
ask political asylum to the Head of the Affffrican State
—with four “f”s, don’t forget—
I declare myself a refugee on the grounds
that I think differently from seven people who are just like me…

 

 

The Story: A fisherman from Lampedusa sees someone left by a shipwreck. The fisherman does everything he can to save her. He pulls her onto his boat. It is a swordfish, it is wearing Shauba’s sunglasses.

The Theater: The actress soaks the sunglasses. She puts them on. She exits. Domenico Modugno’s Lu pisci spada plays.