About migrants that landed but with anchors made of salt, as their thoughts (Photo: Marco Ottaviani)

About migrants that landed but with anchors made of salt, as their thoughts

“They go on with their lives here. I might have realized it just now”.

This is what Michele told me. With his eyes looking down, to the left, as he was feeling guilty of something. Then he looked back at me. The green was surrendered; the traces of gold were wet.

My friend from the seaside moved to the Netherlands almost two years ago: he left, then he came back, then he left again. He is young and in his veins there is still the blood of his grandfather, a sailor. Two realities that might have made him love an icon like the anchor but yet, they will not allow him to drop it in any harbor for long.

Michele is right. When you’re gone, you might think that you’re the only one moving on. What you leave behind, you expect it will wait for you, untouched, in the shape that your eyes still remember, as at the moment you turned your sight on your shoulders, for the last goodbye. It’s an ancient sin, looking back. It can turn you into a pillar of salt. Something, inside you, stays ossified: it’s the image of what you expect to find when you’ll be back.

Then you come back, for real. Maybe just for a few days. Your father looks crooked, your mother sits down too often. The daughter of your friend in high school calls you uncle and she knows your name. The last time you’ve seen her, she wasn’t able to talk yet.

You move on, they move on, the paths are simply not the same.

Amsterdam, for many reasons, is a town where you don’t stop. It can be a bubble of grace, where you live the ‘right here right now’, because you might think that “Home” is still waiting for you.

We are all prodigal children.

However “Home” is not ‘right here and right now’, “Home” moves on.

Then you start to realize that about your anchors, you shall start to drop them somewhere, in some harbor.

Maybe not here, not now.

Considering that nothing around you stays still, maybe it’s your turn to stop.

The colors of the Adriatic sea in Michele’s eyes and his surrender, that afternoon in December, reminded me of the short Greek trees described by Erri de Luca:

“Few trees grow there, short for the wind that bends them. Lashed to the ground, their roots are twisted around the stones. If uprooted, they show to the wind the defeat of their grip”.


Quote: “Storia di Irene” by Erri de Luca, Feltrinelli 2013


Migrant (Photo: Marco Alf)

Marco Alf
6 replies
  1. Arianna
    Arianna says:

    By the way John, expatsHaarlem is looking for a native editor. Very hard to find one as we all work volunteer.

  2. Arianna
    Arianna says:

    I like the article! And I love Erri de Luca. Maybe because I am Italian, I really “felt” what was written.

  3. Marco Alf
    Marco Alf says:

    Dear John,

    Feedbacks are always welcome. However I really don’t like when readers try to put in my mouth words that don’t belong to me. Sean was simply at my place that night and I asked him his honest opinion as an English mother language, graduated in English literature. This was his feedback. He asked me to use my account in order to answer you back. Nobody asked anybody to defend anything. I don’t think it’s the case to take it personal. You said your opinion, you had the answer from another reader that didn’t agree with you. I call myself out of it. From my side I can say that all the articles are checked by a person that works for the website before being published, I guess that my English was good enough for them but any improvement can be always made. This was one of the most personal articles, meaning I tried to do in English what I’m used to do in my mother language: playing with the structure of the sentences and trying to find a way of expression that allow the readers to see what they want to see, considering their personal points of view and experiences. It was my first “experiment” in a foreign language in this sense and honestly, it might not have been perfect but it was fun to do. I do agree that improvements can be done but I still consider your comment partially unfair and I have kind of the feeling that you might have missed the point of the whole article. Thank you anyway for your feedback and for being an outspoken reader, it’s always good to have somebody that shakes things up 

  4. John
    John says:

    I never said his English should be perfect, and of course a “creative writing” piece can take more artistic licence with the language for sake of style. However, the English used in this piece is not “at a really strong level”, most non-native speakers I have met since moving here (NL) would not make the kind of mistakes he has made, mistakes which make it difficult to read.

    My point is that if he were to ask one of the many competent English speakers around him for a bit of editing and feedback his articles would be better and he’d surely improve his English in the process.

    But he refuses to admit there’s anything wrong and has one of his friends defend him on his blog page, instead of accepting some constructive and helpful feedback! Not a very nice way to interact with readers

  5. Marco Alf
    Marco Alf says:

    As a friend of Marco on his behalf, and as a native English speaker, I found this to be very well written actually. Considering English isn’t his mother language, this is at a really strong level. I think there are aspects to it which are a little convoluted, as a result of him translating from Italian to English, but because of this, there are elements which sound very poetic. It’s more a creative writing piece than a journalistic one, and I think because of this, a few discrepancies in grammar or syntax can be allowed.

  6. John
    John says:

    Not trying to be harsh but your English is awful mate. Most sentences in this post were really hard to understand. You could use an editor or something to help you get your point across.

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