To mark 20 years of Refugee Week, we’re inviting you to write a 20 word poem.

Here are some of the poems written so far – share yours using #SimpleActs, or email us.


20 word poems


Our favourite Saturday-night metaphor: ‘Journey’
Catches on like wildfire
Explodes From hearthside
To healthscare
In a flash of teeth

– Katie Kibbler

In the waves
lapping the dinghy
I heard Grandmother’s song.
Now it’s hidden
In my click-clack school shoes, Listen.

– Katerina Watson

The air here is new
and the baby cries
sucking in lungfuls
nourished by it.
Don’t hold your breath.

– Dulcie Few

A desperate escape
Almost too late
Why ever unwelcome?
When avoiding tension
To offer their all
Help them stand tall

– George Berry

His face caught my mind
Her courage
my heart
their loss
my soul,
in my sanctuary.

– Rev Hilary Evans

Twenty words to say
In a language foreign to your own.
Bring your voice
Express yourself
We are one.

– Ciara Hogan

It could be you – it could be me
If all that we saw was too much for us to see

– Annette

Welcome all Refugees to my country The United Kingdom
You must be afraid
But don’t be,
Love will conquer
Believe me.

– John Bennett-Green

Longer poems

Tireless I walk, planting footprints in the dunes of waste and debris, leaving behind the dust I once knew and loved.
Home is a mythical beast, like a secret it is hard to seek, but once found it will give greater joy than simple affections as love.
Time passes but the ache in the wound of change still pains. Haunted by the ghosts of memories, by past dreams and futures lost.
Still the sun shines and we can dance with laughter and music telling stories.
New faces, new words, new places. Offering fresh choices, new futures.

– Yosef Berg

Refugees are often those who are forced into taking flight
Leaving family, friends, and the place that they know as home
to show care and understanding to those who experience this plight
Is to fulfil in word and action the love of God and of our neighbour too

– Ernest Brady

Earthquake, floods, war, homes trashed, ethnic cleansing
I had to leave, my life was in danger
Don’t know what happened to my family
No belongings, only the clothes I wear
Everything strange, many days wandering
Weak, thirsty, have to ward off the hunger
Life is not easy as a refugee
Many authorities don’t seem to care
There’s no compassion for my suffering
Some people consider me a scrounger
Surely I’ve a right a live in safety
Close to giving up, more than I can bear
Have to continue, keep persevering
Don’t understand language, a foreigner
Not here for cash handouts, getting things free
Have no money, can’t afford travel fare
A few charities help me with living
Help me with forms, care, get things in order
Appreciate, treat me with dignity
I now have hope, life, no longer despair
– Dan Lu Pun


Who is the Refugee?

When we look to our shores
lined with small flimsy boats
full of war weary people
cast in fake life floats

Perilously suspended
on a merciless sea
facing a nations hand
palm up, don’t come near me

As sharp as a slap
but oh so much worse
silent, still and cruel
a gestural hearse

Can we ever again
enjoy sweet-salty sea air
when from it’s lips
we rejected our brother without care

When we look to our past
to our colonial greed
to our presumption of improvement
education, order and breed

When the imperial inheritance
is dependence on aid
ethnic, politicalschism
and unfair trade

When the rains have gone
left their land in cracks
fuelled by our industry
born of their broken backs

Can we ever sleep peacefully
in our soft feathered beds
when our unpaid comfort
flows from their bleeding heads?

When we look to our hearts
can we actually see
it is no longer one
but broken in three

Caught with fear,
hung with shame
beating but empty
of His unifying name

That calls us to oneness
to listen to the truth
that the earth is one country
not divided, or aloof

Who is the refugee?
the one who lost his home?
or the one who lost his heart?
In desolation left to roam.


Our cosiest words get mangled
And thrown out as trash when
Launched at people needing the homeliness most.

Cocoa-word, firewarm phrase:
‘Refuge’ becomes ‘refuse’, ‘abuse’;
‘Home’ lands as ‘harm’, ‘farm’.

Our favourite
Saturday-night metaphor –
‘Journey’ –
Catches on like wildfire
Infection. Explodes
From hearthside
To healthscare
In a flash of teeth

– Katie Kibbler


‘Write a 20 word poem’ is one of 20 Simple Acts to celebrate 20 years of Refugee Week. For more information and the full list, visit the Simple Acts page. 

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