My interpretation of the theme of Distance on “Cha, an Asian Literary Journal”
Distance is not only the physical length of space between two points. It’s also a gap, a rift.
It often creates a sense of craving for a place or for another human being – for a distant ‘entity’ that cannot be immediately reached – and it churns restlessly inside us. This feeling of longing might also subside and turn into dangerous detachment or indifference: distance has thus generated a chasm and nothing can bridge the gap between where we were and where we are now. Other times, distance becomes loss and takes us to a long forced journey of renewal and rebirth, to another dimension or place.
The Mediterranean Sea lies between the land of war and desperation and the land of hope. In summertime, the distance from one to the other seems to be narrowing, but it is only an illusion. Unavoidably, not far from terra firma is where many migrants find an undeserved burial, swallowed by the merciless waters or washed ashore. Often, as we’ve witnessed, a lifeless body is no nuisances to the daily routine of holidaymakers, lazily sunbathing on the beach and swimming in the clear sea.
Distance is the result of our indifference and apathy, and of the richest countries’ political inaction towards the migrant crisis.
All these daily journeys, daily failures and unjustified deaths had been my first thought for a poetry submission – centred on the theme of ‘Distance’ – to “Cha, an Asian Literary Journal” (http://www.asiancha.com/). The story I tell is part of the countless tales that in their sad recurrence leave many of us disinterested and unsympathetic. Sicily and the Island of Lampedusa – due to their close proximity to the coasts of Africa – are amongst the migrants’ target destinations. These people start their journey crammed in flimsy dinghies and travel with no luggage but faith.
Once reached the shore, they will never know if their life will take a turn for the better or for the worse. They can only hope, and have a dream.
Here’s the link to my poem, ‘Ahmed’s Chimera’: http://www.asiancha.com/content/view/2364/554/
In collaboration with Health in Action, a Hong Kong charity that promotes community health and wellbeing through the empowerment of the underprivileged, Cha is publishing a special section of poetry on the theme of “Distance” in its June 2016 issue. The publication of this special section will coincide with Health in Action’s Refugee Week Art Movement (week of 20 June 2016) to raise awareness for asylum seekers and refugees in Hong Kong. (20 June 2016 is World Refugee Day.)