You flood your lungs with the ripe stench of fish and bodies and fuel.
The dinghy motor whines against the night.
Salt air grinds your skin ‘til it’s bloodied and threadbare.
You squat: no room to sit since leaving Sabratha.
Your body clenches tight to its bones
and shrill muscles shriek and weep and lock up.
You are trapped inside.
Damp t-shirt clings to goosebumped flesh under a tattered orange life jacket.
But what life?
Next to you a shaking woman holds her boney baby
She has shit herself.
Behind you a leathery man mumbles and mumbles for water.
You turn to see his eyes roll hollow
and his mouth slack open.
With each breath your shoulders and chest brush someone else.
You smell the stink of desperation,
the gray rancid smell of rotting humanity.
You see the Italian coastline and your heart speeds up.
Your vision blurs as tears come.
From somewhere behind there’s a jolt.
Motor goes silent.
From the dark there is yelling.
Then the floor tilts.
And the lights of Lampedusa go black.
By Lorna Rose
Lorna Rose writes creative nonfiction and poetry. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in A Quiet Courage, Red Fez, Mothers Always Write, Literary Mama, and others. Her current project is a memoir. Connect with her on Facebook at facebook.com/bigthings2 and on Twitter @LornaARose.