Marianne Lee – ‘Obedience’

“A brilliant opening, and lovely sonic and verbal dexterity throughout – I also liked the risks with image and bold line breaks.” – Will Harris, Forward Prize-winning poet and judge of the Orwell Youth Prize 2023

Once, I had envied birds,
Once, I had not.
Mostly, I wear my own skin, proud
but sometimes, I do not.
Sometimes, I swap it for hollow feathers,
Bones too brittle to snag a passing wind,
So light that they might sever, morph back to my shedding skin
And I let myself imagine
Trading my mouth for a beak, talons and not feet, gently peeling away
words, I would trade it all, for a chirp
All for a chance to be a bird
Then I’m back, sitting at my windowsill,
As they sit in my sky,
From my corner of the darkened room,
I suddenly realise; this world is at my
and I merely wish to

But the night still sleeps and the day’s still dawning
I get up, I get up, I get up, I get up
But really I’m sleepwalking
Seconds blur into minutes, into hours, into days
And as each waning moment replays
I’m lost in a loop but I’m trapped in a maze
And all that I crave, I relentlessly crave
Is one goddamn moment.
A quiet.

And I want to step out, abscond the rewind
I’m told that time is of the essence, but the essence in my mind is telling me to
In my sleep I dream of absolution
And in my dreams I sleep undisturbed
Till I stagger back to the waking world,
It keeps on churning, there’s money to continue earning, forests to continue burning
But I’m urging you to escape,
Before the monotony consumes you,
Before you start to follow, stop to think and wait
For some, it is simply
too late.

I wish I could say that I’m unaffected
So many words I wish to say,
But instead I stay
Wings clipped, beak bound
So I get up,
and I obey.


Marianne Lee is a junior runner up of The Orwell Youth Prize 2023