Today I want to tell you a personal story; a meaningful anecdote about life in Moria; a ray of hope in the middle of this nonsense. One week ago I was having a discussion with a wise young Iraqi man. We were both working at the library that day. Waiting for people to borrow books to read, we discussed peacefully Baudelaire, Picasso and Nietzsche. He had so much to teach me about these famous figures. Before fleeing his hometown, he used to teach philosophy. His private library was a hundred times bigger than the shelving units we call a library here. His life was not much different from ours. One day however, everything changed and his library is now an assortment of second-hand books in the refugee camp of Moria. Few months after he arrived in Lesvos, he became the librarian of the Community Center and he started writing his dreams on paper; coloured words flowing out from his restless soul.
This post could have easily been about our conversation, about one of his surrealistic poems. However, life is as unpredictable as the summer rain, and my writing today will take another turn. Indeed, our conversation suddenly stopped, like a broken dream in the middle of the night. A mighty man, empty eyes and faded gaze, showed up into our cabin. His breath smelt of booze; his trembling voice sweated alcohol. His face conveyed anger against the world; exasperated like a caged animal. He was hurling out French words probably in order to hurt us in a language we didn’t understand. He called us demons; stingy usurpers of the beauty of his country. He named us jailers; pitiless agents of his daily suffering. Unexpectedly, I answered him back, acknowledging his reasons and taking his side. Not only I reached him out through a common language, but I also dissociated myself from the colonizers, by revealing that my fluency in French was the result of my own migration. That ephemeral conversation did not solve his anger; that fragile point of contact did not reduce his exasperation. Still he left quietly and he found his way back home.
Yesterday was my library shift again. Experiencing a sort of a déjà-vu, one week later I found myself in that same library, talking with my same wise friend about his poems. Once again, the conversation was agreeable. What is more, the number of people who came in asking for books had increased considerably. Nevertheless, an unpleasant feeling invaded me. The drunken admonishment I have been through one week before was still echoing in my mind. I felt like I needed to be absolved from sins I had never committed. And it happened: the same mighty man that accused me one week before came in again. The anger was not washed away from his blood; the exasperation was not carved out from his eyes. Still, he was sober and lucid. He asked me for advice and he borrowed a book from the library. Yesterday we could not break the chains of his body but we succeeded in breaking the chains of his soul. I felt forgiven.
Neigh of Lamp
Behind the far hills
tree is crying
No one embraces her
Only the wind and the letters of the dead
Vibrating, falling of her cages
Wake up to her voice, blue rooster
Carrying a glass hammer
He is Running and falling ground
by the umbilical cord
It begins from a dry river until the door of God is closed
He is Standing at the door
He See a crucified fish
And an apple over an ox horn
Then He returns laughing
Like a child puts his first step on the tail of a serpent
My poet friend
Text: Emanuele Politi
Photo: Henk van Lambalgen