On the Outside Looking In - Immigrant's Lament
Can you imagine what it is like to come to a country as an immigrant or an asylum seeker? Those who come have often suffered war and terrorism, and seen their home and family torn apart. So even if they come with little or no baggage, they certainly carry a load on their shoulders and have a difficult and traumatised past.
A lament is not really a poem; it is the more sorrowful reflection of a person in a down-and-out situation, but it may still have its poetic elements.
By Omar Shalik
So now I am here, knocking on your door
Alone and afraid, trying to look so calm
Officers are looking at my papers
Suspiciously, like police – maybe I done something wrong?
Maybe is wrong to come to your country?
So I try to look calm and cool – but inside I am shivering
I want to go home, but that is all lost now
Hateful men came in the night,
Killed my father and brother, I don’t know why
My mother and sisters are gone, I don’t know where
I long for them and I long for my lost home
But now I am here, in your strange country
With your strange talk and spiteful eyes
Where will I sleep tonight with my eyes open?
You look at my poor clothes and pity me
You look at my black hair and my black eyes
You look at me with troubled face, like I am problem
You look at me like the alien that I am
Humble and humiliated
And with fear in my big immigrant eyes.
So now I am here at your doorstep
Hoping that you will let me in, please
I will go where you take me, do what you say
I will not let you know how lost I feel
I will cover my eyes so you won’t see the tears
I will not let you see I am shivering inside
What is my future – where will I go?
If I could go where I want – that would be home.
Home, like it was -
To live with my family in the hot and dusty sun
Get water for my mother and look after my sisters
Help my father with the goats and the fence
Play with my friends in the warm afternoon
See the big white moon over the hills
And not fear tomorrow
Like I do now
If I survive tonight
I may live tomorrow
Please to open your door
I have nowhere else to go
Tasks and Activities
- Point out some poetic elements in the text (contrasts, repetition, rhythm, metaphors, alliteration).
- Which country do you think this immigrant comes from? (Give reasons for your answer.)
- What age do you think this immigrant is? (Give reasons for your answer.)
- How does the language reveal the person’s foreign origin?
- Comment on the lines: “Where will I sleep tonight with my eyes open?” and “And with fear in my big immigrant eyes.”
- Check the Internet for information about asylum seekers and the demands they are faced with to get a residence permit.