Freedom from Torture - 'The Letter' - A poem for World Book Day

'The Letter' - A poem for World Book Day

This poem, by a former member of Write to Life, travels seductively from happy memories through despair to new resolve in the fight for a home and a future. Its message: that writing has power, and a bedtime story can soothe any pain - is a reminder to us all on World Book Day. Readers will be happy to know that this author has since been granted leave to remain in the UK and is happily settled and employed; the power of writing and advocacy is still needed for others seeking the right to remain.

THE LETTER by Steven


There are all kinds of letters

Birthday greetings, Christmas cards,

Letters from school mates, official appointments,

And holiday surprise invitations.


Sent by a neighbour or my mum,

I’d walk two miles, the post office box key,

Hanging from a rope round my neck.


Hundreds of silver boxes shaded from the sun,

Five digits written on a wooden stick, tell you which is your box.

The key would turn and in slow motion you would bring out the letters.

Excited, looking forward to good news.


My dad would send cheques to the family. Is one of these from him?

Checking the backs, I’d see who sent them but knowing I wasn’t allowed to open them.

Back home I would hang round my mum, eagerly waiting for answers.

Anything for me? Has dad sent some money? Who’s it from?

That was the past.


Today is the present and now I can open my own letters.

This is a letter I’ve been waiting seven years to receive.

Now it’s in my hand, my mind is blank.

Feeling numb, I couldn’t breathe as if I was being choked.


My photos fell out onto my lap. The smiling faces of my children ripped in some clerical routine.

Torn as if two lions were fighting, a corner in each slobbering mouth,

And the letter burned. I had to read it.


Black writing ran wildly around the page like spiders.

All I could see was the word ‘refusal’.

I lost my courage. I could not continue to read. The world had gone blue.

My solicitor read out the rest.


I ask myself, what have I done wrong?

Did the author of this letter have a terrible night before they wrote it?

They don’t know me. They don’t know who I am.

Do they want to know who I am?

Driven to stamp my application - case closed.

To gain what? A bonus or a back slap from their boss?


Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe their own life is in a mess.

(if they have known mess as I have known)

Maybe the recession has hit them hard. Maybe they can’t afford to go skiing! (poor dear)

Now dozing or dreaming, all I feel is: I’m in the wrong.

I have committed a crime. A crime I don’t understand.

I’m guilty even before my trial.


Once, as a child, I loved the excitement of a letter.

Now I have a phobia of them. Let others open them. Not me.

Nothing good comes from them.


But still I can read.

And if you can read, you can fight.

And if you can read, you can read your children a bedtime story.

Nothing else matters.



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