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 

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 saying-
run away from me now 

i dont know what i’ve become but i know that anywhere
is safer than here 

Warsan Shire was born in Kenya in 1988 and is a London-based Somali-British writer. She is the author of the collections Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth (flipped eye, 2011), Her Blue Body (flipped eye, 2015), and Our Men Do Not Belong to Us (Slapering Hol Press and Poetry Foundation, 2015). Her work has appeared in a range of journals and anthologies, including Poetry Review, Wasafiri, Sable LitMag; the SaltBook of Younger Poets (2011), Long Journeys: African Migrants on the Road (2013), and Poems That Make Grown Women Cry (2016).