Essay Archive

Read the personal essays documenting the work and experience of MotM in Lampedusa, Rome and beyond.
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2 May 2018

The news at sea

“Enjoy that magic island,” a friend said after she heard I arrived on Lampedusa last week, and on a good day it is magic. On a regular day, it is Mars and we are extraterrestrials, and anything else you might imagine as normal life is lost in the wind and untraceable on your mental radar...

20 March 2018

The Geography of time

“Manchi tu nell’aria” (“I miss you in the air”) ––Umberto Tozzi
“It's a matter of time and tide” ––Basia

5 February 2018

Solidarity in macerata

Hate and violence will not divide us.” –Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni

2 January 2018

new year note

2017 was the year Migrants of the Mediterranean (MotM) came to life, and may 2018 be the year it sees further connections of human compassion, moments of peace, and encounters with others that make life immeasurably enriched...

19 December 2017


“Be aware that we are free. And being free men and women we can tell the truth, and this is a privilege.”  –Paolo Naso, Sapienza Università di Roma; Palermo, 2 October 2017

27 October 2017

going back to where you came from

I arrived in Lampedusa in mid-September amidst a wave of tourists that, as it was explained to me by one of the owners of Bar Dell’Amicizia, and then reiterated by shop owners along Via Roma, was at a volume 40% higher than it was at the same time last year. You could feel it...

8 September 2017

One day in mexico

The wall may have been a normal site to the Nogales townspeople, but it was not to me. I was startled to confront an object of this much contention. I was startled to look at it levelly right in front of me, after so many years of filing it away as a thing that existed only politically, only as a figurative thing. The wall stood for something in this moment, but it was not political virtue, or even political vice––either of those were abstracts...

25 July 2017

random acts of kindness

The view from there gives everyone a bit of enchantment, as the green sprawl of Central Park sets the backdrop for the soaring skyscrapers around it. Wally sent me a photo of the garden he has been tending near his housing; he’s been looking after patches of tomato, onion and lettuces on a volunteer basis. I returned a photo of what was unique to my view here in New York, the shot from la torre again, and he said he’d never laid eyes on anything like it...

16 July 2017

A Weekend Disruption

Italy is right now considering port closures to NGO vessels. As I posted on the MotM Facebook page earlier this week, fear begets fear: as Italy continues to be abandoned by the EU in the face of the crisis for its isolationist reasons, the Italian government is forced to weigh actions of its own grounded in similar sentiment...
(Image courtesy: MSF_Sea)

31 May 2017

taming a transatlantic trauma

At the desert’s edge, where all of those iconic three-armed cacti reach up from the dusty ground like you’re in a cowboy movie, it is quiet in a way that not even Lampedusa is: there, there is always the rushing ambience of the sea; here, there are just ghosts that haven’t risen yet...

18 May 2017

departures, reunions, returns

Yesterday a friend in Rome asked me if I was ready to return to New York. Leaving here is a part of the experience of coming here, I told him, so in that sense I am ready. In a thousand other senses, of course, I am not...

10 May 2017

the fluorescence

Lately I’ve looked out and everything seems to be fluorescent. The edge of everything, anything, looks like a standstill against radical particles that you can almost individually see. Edges glow. The island has an aura, maybe...

4 May 2017

way out there in the blue

For two hours I sat in the wind and only an eternity of blue. The divers plunged under and another climbed a signal station that looked like a ladder peeking out from another dimension. It was a YA fantasy novel, Mediterranean-style, the sick scene where the unknowing passenger turns dizzy from the motion...

27 April 2017

a recap from rome, milan and more

Just a short note this week after a full week of travel northward through Italy. Everyday was full, shuttling myself between cities on either plane, train, or by car. It was constant running, but a nice break to leave the island and experience the thrum of city life again...

18 April 2017

more than 8,000 easter arrivals

You’re going to feel Easter as a day in doppler effect, a buildup of festivities that crescendos Sunday and disperses into a placid Monday. A marzipan lamb is still sitting on a dish on my table, to be eaten eventually, maybe. It’s the equivalent, I think, of an American Cadbury Egg, only the lamb is christened with a flag and a halo with an image of Christ...

11 April 2017

the moon when the sky clears

It was cloudy, and it had been that way for what felt like an eternity but was actually just three or four days, so everything felt slower still. It was gray. It was slow. Nothing moved. It was just that droning, diffused, flat daylight through low clouds with a damp wind for days...

4 April 2017

landing in lampedusa

I boarded the same late evening flight from John F. Kennedy International that I’ve taken enough times to become friendly with the flight attendants. This time, I sat next to a Russian physicist who showed me graphs that described the shape of protons, and told me that if a proton is the size of a blueberry then the atom it orbits is equivalent to the size of the earth. So that’s how small a proton is, and that was gleaned just while we picked over mushy pasta dinners. Just think of what lies beyond...