I usually write funny stuff. Self-deprecating stuff. Making fun of ego-driven celebrities stuff. And then there are times when I want to share something much more important.
Yesterday, my family and I were cleaning out closets to make a donation to the Frederick Rescue Mission. Our home had plenty of clothes, shoes and linens that we have outgrown or no longer need. We have an embarrassment of riches.
Our riches include more than clothes and linens — there is furniture, food, warmth in the Winter and — when there isn’t a major malfunction — cooling in the Summer. We have family we can count on. We own our home. Our kids play sports that require registration fees and lots of expensive equipment. We have really good health care through my employer, which is a boon when you have two boys. We have two labrador retriever mixes that we adopted from a rescue. Our cars are in great shape. The community we live in is overwhelmingly supportive and full of lots of wonderful people.
So when a friend on Facebook posted a poem, asking folks to read it in the context of the rampant state of anger and nastiness exhibited in today’s political climate, I did.
I thought about what this poem shares from the perspective of people who do not have an embarrassment of riches. People who barely have the basic necessities. Heck, some people who have only the clothes on their backs.
It makes me forever grateful and humble that my “Home” is not the mouth of a shark.
Note: poem copied in its entirety and not redacted for offensive language.
“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
and even then you carried the anthem under
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
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
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
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
or the insults are easier
than your child body
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
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