During the last few days a poem has been cropping up frequently in Facebook posts.  Written by the young British-Somali poet, Warsan Shire, Home speaks with the utmost clarity of the reasons why the many, many thousands now risking their lives on the Mediterranean, tramping through the Balkans, or along inhospitable roads in Hungary leave their homes:

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 neighbours 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 toilet
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

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

go home blacks
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
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
be hunger
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
I don’t know what I’ve become
but I know that anywhere
is safer than here

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5 thoughts on “no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark

  1. I’m not going to make a lot of sense here, but here’s the picture. Most of these refugees are talented, trained people who will be easily absorbed into western Europe, the US, Canada etc. That was done after WW2 in about 2 yrs. with “supposedly” displaced persons. What’s left in Syria, Iraq etc. are the lower middle class, the poor and the religious, with less skills – they will be brain washed into the ISIS thought train. Then we will have these power crazed Iraqi generals leading them into a senseless religious wars to buttress the generals powers. Actually Geo. Orwell predicted this, somewhere he said WW2 would continue in the mid east and he was right, that’s what’s going on.

    1. Why Now?
      What kind of tension is this aimed to create for what and whose benefit?

      Who is supplying the boats? Where does the money come from? Who keeps the routes of trafficking open and for whose benefit?

      Whilst (on the whole) the personal plight is exceedingly sad and shameful to see in many regards, these wars are largely perpetrated by the West for Geopolitical reasons. It is worth noting though that the vast majority of ‘refugees’ are fighting age single males.

      It is also important to not be fooled into a black/white or right/wrong analysis. This is far more multifaceted than any of us will ever know. It is quite reasonable to state that this is not the failure of the West that many people are claiming but is in fact the perfect result and exactly what was planned to eventuate as a result of invasions and so called ‘regime change’.



  2. “you have to understand,
    that no one puts their children in a boat
    unless the water is safer than the land”
    Beautifully said, and this is the stark truth that sings out from the photos we are seeing–immediately evident to every parent who sees them. No one would be clinging, terrified, to a child who is about to be dragged from a train– a train that is an overcrowded mob scene–unless that was the only viable option. The danger of the journey for young families can only mean the stark terror of a life at home is unbearable. Thank you for sharing the poem.

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