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

Picture Postcard Patriotism

Inspired by the death of Aylan Kurdi a 3 year old Syrian boy and the front page  pictures of of a unfiromed man cradling a small child on a deserted beach.

The honey  yellow sun slowly ascends the pale blue horizon,
Gentle waves break lightly against the golden sands, fizzing and foaming.
Holiday makers breakfast in plush hotels, loungers and brollies sit redundant.
The cool, damp beach is pristine and deserted.
But along with the weed and drift wood, the flotsam and jetsam of the morning tide has washed up death.
Tiny, pathetic bodies, scattered, lifeless and contorted,
Swollen and bloated from the suffocating sea, grey and inanimate.
The ocean ebbs and flows around the motionless corpses.
A tall dark, solitary figure surveys the sickening forms.
Slowly, stopping low reaching out to one small, still, inundated body.
Arms enfolding the now dead child.
Cradling, holding tight and firm,
Embracing, supporting, protecting.
But too late!!!!!


Inspired by the mass boat crossing from Africa to Europe in June 2016

Lying here now, still and quite,
Escaped from all the noise and riot,
Running  from the bombs of war,
I now rest on sandy shore.
Fleeing from my home and land.
At last, respite upon the sand.
No more to fear am I a slave,
Instead I catch the breaking waves.
To this far shore my family travelled.
From suffering as life unravelled
Souls adrift,… cast aside,
Finding refuge on the tide.
The planes and missiles no longer screech,
On this deserted empty beach.
Peace and refuge now are found,
In this new world I am unbound.
No xenophobes or flags or borders,
No soldiers acting under orders.
Released from all the pain and fear.
Words and talk, all insincere.
For As the sun shines overhead,
My body lies here cold and dead.

A Dead Child’s Plea 

Inspired by the death of Aylan Kurdi a 3 year old Syrian boy

Shame on you for killing me,
An innocent child, only 3,
Fleeing war; a refugee.

Now I lay upon the sand,
Escaped from war that blights my land;
I wanted just a helping hand.

My family around me lie,
No time for us to say goodbye,
Abandoned to the sea to die.

Because of lines on maps and coloured flags,
I now fill a body bag,
Choked on water, drowned and gagged.

Running scared, afraid in fear,
The victim of a profiteer,
A world wrapped up with borders and frontiers.

My now dead unseeing eyes,
Look up into an empty sky,
No gods were there to give reply.

My family sought to find escape,
The savages of war and rape,
Our ravaged lives to rebuild, remake.

Our country torn and ripped asunder,
Roaring guns, the sound of thunder,
Our homes the spoil of pillage and plunder.

We wanted only to find shelter,
Walked for days in burning swelter,
Embarking on tumultuous welter.

But we found not reprieve or quarter,
Disgorged into the boiling water,
Numbers added to the slaughter.

My body lies now bloated, limp and cold,
A tragedy that you behold,
Of suffering and grief untold.

The waves that lap upon my corpse,
Should fill you with a dark remorse,
Compel you to another course.

– Matthew Wright


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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