No one leaves home unless

“no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark/you only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well/your neighbors running faster than you/breath bloody in their throats/the boy you went to school with who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory is holding a gun bigger than his body/you only leave home when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you/fire under feet/hot blood in your belly/it’s not something you ever thought of doing until the blade burnt threats into your neck/and even then you carried the anthem under your breath/only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets/sobbing as each mouthful of paper/made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land/no one burns their palms under trains
beneath carriages/no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled means something more than journey/no one crawls under fences/no one wants to be beaten/pitied

no one chooses refugee camps or strip searches where your body is left aching/or prison, because prison is safer than a city of fire and one prison guard in the night is better than a truckload of men who look like your father/no one could take it/no one could stomach it/no ones skin would be tough enough

the/go home blacks/refugees/dirty immigrants/asylum seekers/sucking our country dry/[foreigners] with their hands out/they smell strange
savage/messed up their country and now they want to mess ours up/how do the words/the dirty looks roll off your backs/maybe because the blow is softer than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than [the attacks]/than rubble than bone than your childs body in pieces. i want to go home, but home is the mouth of a shark home is the barrel of the gun and no one would leave home unless home chased you to the shore/ unless home told you to quicken your legs/leave your clothes behind/crawl through the desert wade through the oceans/drown/save/be hungry/beg/forget pride/your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear saying-leave, run away from me now/i dont know what i’ve become but i know that anywhere is safer than here”

By Kenyan-born (London-raised) Somali poet Warsan Shire.

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