Entry - MAG Poetry Prize 2010

What am I?

by Lucy Alexander

Dark face, surprised eyes, bright whites -
I look out from the lorry and into the night.
Flash-lights dazzle and voices muddle;
under the rough blanket I huddle.
Where am I? A market but not like ours at all,
Cold air makes everyone a smoker at the stalls
that offer so little – small fruit and vegetables too old;
tins from my country stacked up against the cold.
Who am I? A painter, a boy, I sing, cook, can teach -
Please know that I am someone. Please don’t
listen too much or too little but just enough.
Please – that tin I cannot reach.
Why did I? Well, now that’s a long story.
It begins with poverty or was it war or the regime?
I lived it all – its small sorrows and glories:
but for the Home Office kept it simple all the same.
How will I? Live? Work? Love? Cope?
My mind is my own and I hold deep hope;
Icy streets, white grass and rain;
Dreams of that journey wake me up again.
When will I? Today at the JCP, ten past five.
Sign here and here and there.  Thank you. Goodbye.
Every two weeks they’ll be expecting me
and offer jobs at the care-home or chicken factory.
Which shall I? ‘Chose, sir, please just say –
which you’d prefer at the end of the day?
The hours are not perfect, the wage is quite mean,
but in the current climate it doesn’t pay to dream’.
How can I? The work is exhausting -
early mornings, late nights, cold factory floor.
The boss is a bastard - locks the only door.
Now I only wake up when I’m coughing.
What am I? A poet, a worker and refugee;
My eyes are dark brown like my skin and my hair;
You may walk by barely noticing me –
Who is aching for home while doing time here.

Added: 26.04.2010

Judges' comments on this poem


Loved this poem, Fashionable or not, I enjoy a rhyming poem well written and meaningful.


Very moving and gives a voice to those often overlooked. The rhyming is well done and not annoying. It flows well.