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A poem. Thinking of those who have perished in the Channel.

“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

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 barbed 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.

“Go home, blacks,”

“Refugees”,

“Dirty immigrants”,

“Asylum seekers”

“Sucking our country dry”;

“Ni**ers 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 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 don’t know what i’ve become.

But I know that anywhere is safer than here.

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