Anytime one of the four of us leaned sideways, you could feel it tip, your body kiltering toward the place where on land you would've fallen, the thing 13 meters long and five feet wide. I tried to imagine fifty others crowded aboard, then fifty more if the pirogue were slightly larger, some with every important thing in a single bag, others with just their souls clutched to their chests, which is to say their children. Masser says in the beginning it was just boys, teenagers stealing a boat at night and heading for the open sea, Spain's Canary Islands a thousand miles away, or maybe to Libya and then onto Italy. And still they go, he says, though 4 out of 5 die-- death by water, death by hunger, death by lack of water, death by lack of a compass, death by a hundred desperate people at a time crammed on hoping for better lives. On the radio, the most popular entertainer in Senegal sings, "Last night in my dreams, all over the world: food for all. Ça, c'est necessaire," he concludes. In the pirogue on the relatively glassy waters of the Sine-Saloum delta, I lean east, and those with me lean east. I lean west, and we all lean west towards the setting sun whether we want to or not.
Archives for July 2017
Consequently, there are maybe only a couple hundred here, all of us standing on Wright Terrace and peering hopefully across the water towards Monona, people like me who are fireworks junkies, who will drop anything for even the briefest encounter with ephemera, and from the look of things, people who are new to the city, people who do not know that Madison does not have a proper Fourth of July fireworks show. If I had to guess, I would say that like my grandfather, like me, the crowd is maybe 60% foreign born. The woman next to me wears a headscarf, speaks to her two small daughters in a language I cannot name. As for me, in this brave new world, I am beginning to arrive in a place where I cannot tell the difference between numbness and ease. Day-to-day, it is possible what I feel is both. When the fireworks begin, one of the woman’s daughters starts to jump up and down as if on a spring. Watching her, I feel my own heart leap with some emotion of yore. In the Declaration of Independence, the founders wrote of the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions. I want to say this is in the past. I want to say it’s complicated, but actually it’s not. Overhead a firework explodes, creating a red heart ringed in blue. When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another… The little girl is still jumping up and down, her heart flooded with it.