There are 35 million child refugees in the world today; over a million were born in flight, in exile, in camps. While a great deal has been written about the suffering of those who are fleeing persecution, displacement, hunger and war, in Nadir Laura Fusco attempts to record the voices of the refugees themselves, especially the women and the children.

Nadir is a book about desert caravans, dangerous sea-crossings and desperate marches, about fences, camps, detention centres, squats and underpasses. It is a portrait of ‘a crowd of a hundred solitudes’, the wretched of the earth, the defeated who refuse to accept defeat.

Cover photo: Nathanael Fournier, Avenue de Dunkerque, Lilli 2008
Author photo: Monica Noa Buraggi

Sample Poems

We only want to pass

As if it were nothing when there are thousands.
It isn’t political it’s maths.
They aren’t immigrants
They aren’t refugees
They aren’t clandestine
They are children
someone says.
And: children are all the same
It’s not true they are all the same
It’s not true they aren’t clandestine.
And sometimes not even
that they are still children.

Children’s Charter of Rights

To be 1 year old.
To be 1 at 1.
With whatever one should have and do at 1.
To be 5 years old.
To be 5 at 5.
With whatever one should have and do at 5.
And 6 at 6.
It should be inconceivable
that one can and must draw up a list of what they ought to have.
And what they should not endure.
To know that what they imagine will be theirs.
(But it’s already like that
even if it doesn’t seem so).


An ochre and gold snake, red pink fuchsia,
orange, yellow, green, light blue, indigo, violet.
As fast as clouds, highly-coloured contrails.
No wall will do it.
When they have to keep still in a square metre of fever or on the
cot they get bored
close their eyes and imagine.
When they have stomach-ache, nightmares, are frightened
or angry
they turn away from each other, close their eyes and imagine.
In between what they imagine and reality
there’s a space they know and run towards without stopping,
even when they’re doing nothing,
even when they don’t know it and cry or play or are just afraid.
After so many steps
now that I’m only one step away from
No wall will do it.
Even if their struggle is imagined.
Gold ochre pink red fuchsia orange
is more real than any power
more than any person who writes They have suicidal instincts,
continual nightmares.
Sometimes they consider violence
normal. They learn it to enact it.
They’ll become insensitive to pain,
They’ll abuse drugs and medicines, they will abuse.
Someone dies or gets lost in their imagining
like the passeurs on their mountain crossings,
because to imagine is their crossing
and that’s the reason the world
is theirs. 
Where the only storm is the doubt that dreaming might not have
power over what they see
and feel
and touch
but they leave to grown-ups the illusion that a camp is more real
than the story they are writing, eating, sleeping, waiting for,
Spaces and times that aren’t there yet open up for them to pass
and exist for them to pass and open towards another way of existing.
Gold ochre red pink fuchsia orange...


He’s sitting on the orange lotus flower on the bedspread.
His mother is 16 but he can’t count.
For him she’s his mother but this morning she’s under a gold cover
and her eyes are closed.
Her sister’s crying.
He doesn’t want to cry.
He doesn’t want to look at her.
Better to play.

Never again

Images are their ghosts
they will stay with them always
Even if they go to the camp’s psychologist they’ll still take
Waves of obsidian.
Sky the colour of turmeric.
Clouds blown up until they explode.
At home
it was a journey to go and fetch the water
but this time it was the water that came
onto the deck of the boat and carried her away.
A thud.
A wave collapses
where the bodies are.
There was
She should have kissed the earth because she was alive like
sailors who survive storms.
Instead, she doesn’t speak,
doesn’t eat
doesn’t sleep.
To heal is the only journey.
The rest is kilometres
and days to get through,

We can’t live without free wi-fi

The sky’s asleep.
The night’s light so heavy
that a spiral of smoke instead of flying curves towards land and
Fog – or is it smoke? – still clings to the trees.
And creates new forms and new shadows.
We can’t live without free wi-fi.
We want sky sport, a charger for our mobiles, they have a Britney
Spears ringtone.
She comes out dressed in a chador
on which she has pinned flowers made of rags. Nearby
they throw out sofas, chairs, set fire to bedding to film a video and
post it, to protest, out of boredom,
they queue up to pee and for ‘wages’,
The men quarrel, yell, kill themselves,
While the women, writes the reporter ‘try to make up for the
atrocity the children have witnessed with their gentleness.’
They try to get them to sleep, to wash them, not make them cry.
To be normal and to do normal things
that is both women’s fortune and their revolution.
And from normal things
comes the future.
Even here.


‘Laura Fusco's poetry is spoken with pebbles in her mouth, salt, broken glass. It tells the world what the world does not say. Laura Fusco's poetry is political, when the word political no longer means anything in the mouths of the politicians. It tells us about women, men and children who might be ourselves, but whom we don't want to recognise. Laura Fusco's poetry reminds us of our human duties.’

Philippe Claudel

‘This is poetry as testimony, away from self-indulgence ad excessive subjectivity and towards forms which can properly engage with the mass tragedies which characterise our times.’

Mistress Quickly’s Bed

‘Laura Fusco’s poems are the best I’ve read on this subject,’

Adele Ward

‘It is the extraordinary mass and variety of exactly truthful particulars that gives this sequence of poems its persuasive force. Even now, in the midst of a world-wide sickness, the movement of desperate people across frontiers continues. Fusco helps to keep those people on our consciences.’

David Constantine

‘tremendous… unsentimental and immediate.’

The Italian Rivetter

‘brings refugees’ lives to the forefront, thrusting their hopes and fears, their plight, their common humanity before the reader.’

Modern Poetry in Translation