When speaking about his poem, Al Hafiz Sanusi, on his website, wrote that this piece is:
An attempt in trying to wrestle my conflicting feelings on the issue” of “the numerous unnecessary deaths of migrant workers in road accidents have highlighted the many calls for better transportation treatment of our migrant workers.
The poem is divided into two sections. The first is composed of stanzas one and two, and the second of stanza three (which is twenty-five lines). The first section presents an optimistic future for migrant workers, while the second focuses on how the poet’s father’s life will be changed.
‘Lorry’ by Al Hafiz Sanusi is a poem about the pros and cons that change can bring with it.
In the first lines of the poem, the speaker describes how much change is needed and how it will eventually happen. Hopefully, he thinks, changes will be made that improve the transportation standards for immigrants. But it’s not quite so easy for his family.
His father has been working as a lorry driver, transporting migrant workers to different jobs, for years, and the speaker knows that his father has no other skill set or identity to fall back on.
You can read the full poem here.
Structure and Form
‘Lorry’ by Al Hafiz Sanusi is a three-stanza poem that is divided into uneven sets of lines. The first stanza is nine lines long, the second is five lines long, and the third is far longer at twenty-five lines in length. The poem is written in free verse, meaning that the poet did not use a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern.
In this poem, the poet uses a few different literary devices. These include:
- Enjambment: occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between the last two lines of the poem.
- Anaphora: the repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines. For example, “too” begins three of the poem’s final lines.
- Refrain: the repetition of an entire line more than once in the poem. For example, the first line of stanzas one and two is the same.
- Allusion: a reference to something outside the direct scope of the poem. In this case, the poet alludes to his father’s life and career.
The day will come
when you who have helped to build our nation
get to sit back
on cushioned seats
toggle the aircon filter to your liking
buckle down the belt
a protection you once couldn’t afford
a given right that this country has left out for you.
In the first lines of ‘Lorry,’ the speaker begins by addressing the many immigrants who, as he says, have “helped to build our nation.” He tells the loosely defined group that one day, in the future, they’ll be able to enjoy life and the payoff of all their hard work. This is symbolized by the image of someone on cushioned seats, air conditioning, and safety.
The poet uses an optimistic tone in these lines, hoping to inspire readers to feel compelled by this image of the future as well. Migrant workers have been left “out” for so long and his appeal for equal treatment is quite moving. But, as the following lines reveal, life isn’t quite that simple.
The day will come
when you can gaze out the window
and never have to check your blindspots
for incoming danger.
The second stanza is only five lines long. Here, the speaker uses the same first line, “The day will come,” an example of a refrain. He says that one day, immigrants who have been left out of the care of countries around the world, will be able to look out the window and spend time relaxing without worrying that something terrible is going to happen.
Here, he’s suggesting a certain state of mind in which someone fears that no matter where they go or what they do that there is going to be some kind of threat to their safety.
When that day comes,
my Bak will be given his marching orders.
whom he used to lift from point A to C,
now enjoying the cool breeze of the AC.
In the first few lines of stanza three, the speaker looks toward the future and discusses what it will be like when he gets there. He’s thinking about his father in these lines as well as the poet describes in his poem notes, his father:
“has been a lorry driver ferrying all sorts of migrant workers from various industries for the past thirty years and counting.”
This fact changes the image of the future to some degree for the speaker. He sees that this man who he cares deeply for is going to have to change his understanding of life and work. He’ll no longer be engaged in the same profession. He’ll be “left out in the cold” as he sees those he used to care for uplift.
The speaker is clearly worried that his father is going to be left out of the idealized future he’s imagining.
Lines 12- 25
When that day comes,
he will curse at his upbringing
his backward brain can no longer navigate other career paths
too fat to squeeze in between tight lanes
too big a target to be blamed
for life and death.
In the final lines of the poem, the speaker considers how his father is going to feel in the new future he’s imagining. His father, he thinks, will curse his “upbringing” and the skills he learned when he was young. His father wishes that he’d had a better education and could “navigate other career paths.” There is no “GPS” (continuing the image of transport/vehicles from the previous lines) to tell him where to go.
He imagines his father looking back on driving his own kids in the back of his truck from place to place, seeing the good times and knowing that there were bad ones as well.
In the future, people will see him as a hold-over from the past. The poet uses an extended metaphor, comparing his father to his father’s lorry. Both are too big to fit in narrow lanes and both stick out in a crowd.
The poet alludes to “life and death” at the end of the poem, specifically the deaths of immigrants who have died in traffic accidents while being driven by people like his father. His father has always done honest work, but the speaker has conflicting feelings about the nature of it.
The purpose is to allude to the issues facing immigrant workers worldwide, specifically those in the speaker’s country. Work is hard to come by, as is transportation to a job. So, many have to depend on unsafe means of transportation.
The message is that change is necessary, but sometimes it’s not so easy to make a better change for everyone. The speaker sees his father being left out of the positive changes for immigrants.
The main theme of the poem is change. The speaker does not fully define the change he’s looking for. But the notes for the poem do help readers understand his interest in “better transportation treatment of our migrant workers.”
Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider reading some related poems. For example:
- ‘Immigrant Blues’ by Li-Young Lee – a powerful piece of poetry in which the speaker considers the struggles of a new immigrant.
- ‘Immigration’ by Ali Alizadeh – speaks on the poet’s history of immigration.
- ‘Daybreak in Alabama’ by Langston Hughes – a poem about injustice, racial discrimination, and the need to create a more harmonious world.