Home

In the past decade we have seen millions of refugees escape from a multitude of countries due to war, poverty, and famine. The United Nations Refugee Agency estimates that global “forced displacement” had surpassed 84 million as of mid-2021, and that was before several millions more flooded out of Afghanistan and Ukraine in the last nine months. As of 2021, 3.9 Venezuelans alone were displaced abroad.

The poet Warsan Shire, born in Kenya to Somali parents and living in London, has written extensively about the refugee experience. Her poem “Home” was written after a 2009 visit in Rome with refugees from Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, and Congo, and has become a rallying cry for refugees and their advocates. Please note that this poem includes language and themes that will disturb some and alludes to the sexual violence that many refugees face on their journeys. As you read, please reflect on the following questions:

1. What has your view of refugees been in the past? Does this personalized description of their plight change your feelings or the way you view the refugee crisis politically at all?

2. Have you ever experienced true desperation? If not, would it be valuable to hear from those who have?

3. How can you individually or your church collectively assist refugees (or trustworthy agencies who do so) close to you or far away?

Home

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

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 one skin would be tough enough

the go home blacks refugees

dirty immigrants

asylum seekers

sucking our country dry

niggers 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 fourteen men between

your legs

or the insults are easier

to swallow than rubble
than bone

than your child 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 hunger

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.

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