Not long after the Day War Came was published I was contacted by a wonderful charity Refugee Trauma Initiative. They work with the most traumatised refugees directly after arrival at camps in the Mediterranean. so they are doing a very difficult but essential job. I said the only real help I could offer would be to write something for them.It seems a pretty lame offer but they were very kind. So, they sent me a selection of real stories from refugees who had agreed to share things that had happened to them, and care workers who had stories from their perspective to tell.

As you can imagine they were hard to read, but the absolute bare minimum we can do as human is not to look away from the harsh realities of others’ experience. I read, I cried. I thought and I wrote the poems here. I have another WIP, which is a sort of allegorical myth as a play…but its unfinished an I don’t know when I’ll get back to it.

If you are one of the few people who make it to this blog, then do please share these poems and look at RTI’s wonderful work. One of the poems has been set to music by Simon Fisher, composer, teacher and the Dad from Family Bookworms Wales.(fabulous guide to childrens books with reviews by all family members) Maybe one day we’ll share that somewhere too.

Apologies for the spaced out format here: bloody wordpress did that when I took it from the original document. SIGH


poems by Nicola Davies 



Of course you saw this moment coming:

It was in the space between the flags and placards on the street,

behind the camouflage of newsprint.

A distant megaphone announced it months ago,

The boarded windows and the bombs, confirmed its imminent arrival.

It was too big to understand,

yet somehow, small enough to hide,

to fold between the wind-dried sheets,

stir back into the stew,

and slide underneath the bed

It didn’t stay where it was put.

And now its on the doorstep,

shouting like a drunk

This moment,

This moment,

This moment from which nothing will ever be the same. 


For months we listened, huddled in the dark:

to Mother’s words, like hail battering the roof

“It is too dangerous

It is too far

It is too expensive

It is too cold

It is too lonely”;

to Father’s silence. 

When at last his words came,

they lodged beneath our eyelids 

the way sand does,

rubbing, chaffing, 

“There is no future here

We have to leave.”

We listened, huddled in the dark



You’ve got five minutes, what will you choose

From all that you’re about to lose?

You’ve got five minutes, to fill your arms.

When the city shrieks with fire alarms.

You’ve got five minutes, what will you bring?

A hat? A coat? A wedding ring?

You’ve got five minutes, no time for pain,

Because bricks and mortar fall like rain.

You’ve got five minutes to save a life,

Your sleeping children, your brother’s wife?

You’ve got five minutes to run, run, run

While the sky burns up like a dying sun.

You’ve got five minutes to count the cost

Of the past and future you just lost.


Two hundred on a tiny boat,

Forty drowned when it won’t float.

Eight thousand in a camp for two,

Seventy sharing a portaloo.

Sixteen crammed in an isobox,

Thirty down with chicken pox.

No roof, no food, no clothes, no soap

No home, no dignity, no hope.

Humans crammed on overload,

No surprise that they explode.

Rules are made with gun and knife,

And ten year olds take their own life.

Countless corpses in the sea

This is the maths of misery

A rising tide of pain and sorrow

And forty thousand more tomorrow 

This is the maths of misery

It could be you, it could be me.

part 2 HEALING


A bomb took his brother.

A sniper’s bullet took his dad,

and when you asked about his mum and sister, 

he just looked away.

So, when his was the only sunflower that didn’t come up,

I thought, jeez, the Universe really doesn’t like this kid.

I didn’t blame him when he threw the pot against the wall.

But in the middle of the muddy impact zone,

there was a speck of green;

a minute, fragile finger poking from that skinny, stripy little seed.

He picked it up, refilled the pot,

replanted it with such tenderness,

 then, for the first time, smiled.

I had to turn away to hide the tears,

As a tiny shoot of hope stirred inside me, too. 


We had to walk and walk and walk.

Mum held my little sister and couldn’t hold my hand.

She wrapped my fingers round the button on her coat

“So you’ll be safe”, she said “and won’t be lost!”

I held on tight,

Even on the boat.

Even when I fell asleep.

I held on to the button when they pulled me from the sea.

I hold it still, on a string, next to my heart,

So I remember how Mum loved me

and that I’m not lost. 


Everyday, Spiderman winds string around the table legs,

Through the backs of chairs,

Over the blackboard. 

Across, between, beneath, and back again.

He whispers to his web, like a nun with her rosary,

Repeating the stations of his journey:

The place names and the terrors;

The blood splashed days;

The nights of sleepless cold;

The people he has lost,

Where and when and how.

We are all tangled in his time line,

It threads around our ankles and our arms, and through our hair.

Only he can rescue us, this is the game:

Meticulously, he unwinds his string,

Spools back his story onto the bobbin of his soul.

Each time he gains a little power.

Each time he’s closer to a superhero.


The china cup was my mother’s,

The one small thing of beauty in her harsh life.

It held her smile, her hands as rough and gnarled as branches

With their tender touch.

I carried it across continents and oceans,

The one small thing of beauty in my lost life.

It held my endurance and my patience.

Today it broke.

I can no longer endure.

My rage consumes me,

For what is broken cannot be unbroken.

Our shattered past,

Our fractured future

are beyond mending.  

My daughter takes the shards.

With her granny’s tender touch,

She pieces them together.

Patient, when it seems they do not fit.

Enduring when their edges cut her fingers.

She hands me back the cup, whole.

“Unbroken.” she says.


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