By Warsan Shire
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.
than you, 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.
chased you, fire under feet,
hot blood in your belly.
it's not something you ever thought about doing, and so when you did -
waiting until the airport toilet
to tear up the passport and swallow,
each mouthful of paper making it clear that
you would not be going back.
no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.
who would choose to spend days and nights in the stomach of a truck unless the miles travelled
meant something more than journey.
be beaten until your shadow leaves you,
raped, then drowned, forced to the bottom of
the boat because you are darker, be sold,
starved, shot at the border like a sick animal,
be pitied, lose your name, lose your family...
stripped and searched, find prison everywhere
and if you survive and you are greeted on the other side
with go home blacks, refugees
dirty immigrants, asylum seekers
sucking our country dry of milk,
dark, with their hands out
look what they've done to their own countries,
what will they do to ours?
softer than a limb torn off,
the indignity of everyday life
more tender than fourteen men who look like your father, between
your legs, insults easier to swallow than rubble, than your child's body in pieces -
your survival is more important.
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
leave what you could not behind, even if it was human.
no one leaves home until home
is a damp voice in your ear saying leave, run now, i don't know what