3 poems from ‘Nadir’ by Laura Fusco translated by Caroline Maldonado:
The following poems are taken from a forthcoming collection, Nadir by Laura Fusco, the sequel to Liminal (Smokestack Books 2020) which was a recipient of the PEN (UK) Translates Award 2019. The first collection powerfully represented the experiences of migrants in camps in France and Italy. Nadir has a focus on migrant children. It is due to be published by Smokestack on 1 January 2022.
Laura Fusco, poet and stage director, has been translated into 5 languages and published in the US, UK, Europe and Argentina. Her publications include Aqua nuda (2011), Da da da (2012), La pesatrice di perle (2015), Limbo (Unicité 2018), Liminal (Smokestack Books, 2019 English PEN Translates Award), and Nadir (Unicité 2020). She has performed her poems in various countries and festivals and they are studied in universities and music conservatories.
Caroline Maldonado’s Italian translations published by Smokestack Books include: Your call keeps us awake (2013); Isabella (2019) and Laura Fusco’s poems in Liminal (2020) and Nadir (2022). A collection of her own poems, Faultines, will be published by Vole Books (2022).
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
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
After so many steps
now that I’m only one step away from
No wall will do it.
Even if their struggle is
Ochre of gold red pink 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 theirs is
There the only storm is the doubt that dreaming might not have power over what they see
but they leave the illusion to grown-ups that a camp is more real
than the story they are writing, eating, sleeping, waiting for, thinking.
Spaces and times that aren’t there yet open up to let them pass and to let them pass they exist and they themselves are open to another kind of existence.
Ochre of gold red pink fuchsia orange…
A pitiless shining sky strikes them from over a streaked horizon.
They come from Eritrea from Sudan from Iran from Nigeria from Syria but also from the other side of the world, Nicaragua and Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras.
Some of them open up the route,
others follow behind
in this crowd towards who knows what kind of destiny but hopefully different,
when different means new, reborn, more just, better.
It is a reptile made up of many cities.
One for every person or group
“A crowd of hundreds of solitudes”
put together from fear and hope
that snakes along for kilometres visible against the dark brown of the earth,
the thick fog through the bottle green of leaves,
skies with cotton clouds,
earth hailstones colour of rust and cucumber.
Or in Indian file adding metres, adding streams and wide muddy rivers,
whirlpools, slippery stones, icy passes
or lined up on the beach each awaiting their turn.
in arms or helped by grown-ups.
The colour of the rainbow appears in every dip curve advances disappears to
slows down speeds up without ever stopping ice good weather Saturday Sunday Monday.
At first the odd hundred, then the throng gathers other migrants along the way
and they collect more
“Poor people have always been shut out of everything”.
Now they aren’t any longer,
at least in the caravan that bit by bit swells like murky water.
The caravan even has a daughter,
three weeks old,
but while that’s how it is for her, the others…
Died of hunger,
died from privation,
died from dehydration,
died poisoned by fumes,
during the fires,
in the mass deportation in the middle of the desert,
caught up in revolts,
in traffic accidents,
crushed by the weight of goods,
drowned in rivers,
from excessive heat,
from the snow’s cold in thunderstorms,
crossing mountain passes,
in mined camps,
struggling on boats,
from hunger and thirst drifting on ferries,
Defending their own children,
defending their own men,
defending their own life,
defending the future,
thrown into the sea by survivors,
but they aren’t survivors
because they don’t know how to swim,
because they’re frozen inside an airplane’s undercarriage ,
killed under trains falling along the tracks or electrocuted,
losing their grip under lorry wheels,
battered to death,
punched to death,
killed after falling into a coma,
killed by other survivors searching for a way to escape and trampling on them,
killed by other survivors who capsized the boat,
killed by people smugglers who threw them into the sea like ballast,
killed even if they were pregnant,
with grandchildren beside them,
with children a few steps away crying,
They were hungry and thirsty.
They were cold and frightened.
Images are their ghosts.
They will accompany them,
Even if they go to the camp’s psychologist, they’ll still take medication.
Waves of obsidian.
Sky the colour of turmeric.
Clouds blown up until they explode.
fetching water used to be a journey but this time it came
onto the deck of the boat and carried her away.
A wave collapses
where the bodies are.
She should have kissed the earth because she was alive like sailors who survive storms.
Instead she doesn’t speak,
To heal is the only journey.
The rest is kilometres
and days to get through,