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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Monday, September 14, 2015

No one puts their children in a boat unless ...

 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 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

holding a gun bigger than his body

you only leave home

when home won't let you stay.

no one would leave home unless home chases you

fire under feet

hot blood in your belly

it's not something you ever thought about doing

and so when you did

you carried the anthem under

your breath

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.

you have to understand

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.

no one would choose to

crawl under fences

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,

make a refugee camp a home for a year or two or ten,

stripped and searched, find prison everywhere

and if you survive

and you are greeted on the other side


go home blacks, refugees

dirty immigrants, asylum seekers

sucking our country dry of milk,

dark, with their hands out

smell strange, savage -

look what they've done to their own countries,

what will they do to ours?

the dirty looks in the street

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 - for now, forget about pride

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

unless home tells you to

leave what you could not behind,

even if it was human.

no one leaves home until home

is a damp voice in your ear

leave, run now, i don't know what

i've become.

Listen to Canadian actor Yanna McIntosh read the poem on CBC Radio

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