Longlisted Poem 2014

Emily Pritchard

Oxford High School

La Chancha

‘And when we got there first we found his boat,
Grown over with shells and other sea animals.
Inside we found a live baby bird, fish leftovers,
A dead turtle.’

‘I cannot remember much about my journey.
It has all gone into one thought…
The sea, the sea.’

Wild-bearded, in ragged underpants,
José Salvador Alvarenga,
(Known to local fishermen
As La Chancha, ‘The Pig’)
Washed ashore on the island, Ebon,
After thirteen months at sea
In a seven-metre-fibre-glass-boat.

‘It has been long time, but I feel safe now.
I know too that I will get back home.’

‘We thought he must be dead,’
His mother said.
‘I dreamed about him,
I saw him alive in my dreams.
But then he vanished.
I dreamed like for that days,’
He wept when he spoke to his family on the phone.

‘I’m alive, I’m alive, and I can’t believe it.’

He survived the 5,000 miles
By catching fish, birds, turtles,
With bare hands,
Drinking rainwater, urine, turtle blood.
Picking at the raw flesh of gulls,

‘I’m alive, it is so good.
I thank God and I thank the birds I caught to eat.’

In his hotel room in Majuro,
Capital of the Marshall Islands,
Alvarenga has been shorn
Of his long, sun-bleached hair, his beard.
The haircut was paid for by the US embassy.

‘I feel bad. I am so far away.
I don’t know where I am or what has happened.’

© Emily Pritchard

Project Details

  • Date February 10, 2015
  • Tags 2014 News - Longlisted Poems