Home by Warsan Shire

Syrian refugee children watch Martin Keown, a former British soccer player for Arsenal, as he speaks to them during the official opening of Save the Children's new soccer field at the Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, May 2, 2013. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

The refugee crisis and the human tragedy unfolding in Syria is nothing new, but sometimes it’s easy for people to dismiss and ignore what is abstract and only told in two-minute sound bites on the nightly news.

It’s not so easy to ignore when the image of a three-year-old boy’s body washed up on shore like debris ends up on your timeline. I won’t bother elaborating on the reasons why I firmly believe we should be sharing that image and reacting to it. I am physically and emotionally exhausted and depleted by the debate. A debate, I need to remind everyone, we are fortunate to be able to engage in, while children are dying over there every single day. It is a luxury to be allowed to question whether we should have the choice or not to see the disastrous consequences of the world’s inaction on what is inarguably the worst humanitarian crisis we have seen in a long time when the people experiencing the tragedy have no choice at all.

Whether we see these images or not, these people are dying. And for every person I’ve seen pop up in my feed or in the comments section of the numerous articles passing by who claims that parents who place their kids in harm’s way are “irresponsible” and “greedy” and callously trying to “jump the immigration line” (yes, these are real comments), I have no words for you. I refuse to engage in your hatred and discrimination and small-minded, petty inhumanity.

Instead, I am posting Somali-British poet Warsan Shire’s poem Home here.
I have seen a few of my friends post a line or two from this poem (often not even attributed to her) because it was recently quoted in a Guardian article, and I felt many of you would enjoy being treated to its entirety.

The entire poem is lovely and moving and explains so well what I no longer have any words or energy to explain.

Read it and weep. And then, if you feel so inclined, sign this non-partisan petition urging the Canadian government to act on the Syrian refugee crisis. It is imperative that we do something now that many who were not are now paying attention. With a month before elections, the government can be coerced and pressured into enacting real and concrete change that can affect hundreds and thousands of lives.

Don’t let little Aylan’s death have been in vain.


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