Never have I resonated with a piece as much as I have with this excerpt and the entirety of Home. In fewer than twenty words, Shire articulates what the masses feel, what the fleeing experience and what those in-charge refuse to admit.
Every stanza of Home gives me goose bumps. Just when I think it can’t get more compelling, the next word is even more powerful. How do I paint this for the world? How do I scream this from the mountaintops? Why are there people who dispute this? Because I know there are some who would and, though they may not be the many, they are the ones with the power. Home comforts me like a warm blanket even as it chills me like the arctic wind.
This stanza is more than pretty words in a poet’s head. This is a reality faced by many. In this modern day and age, how can this be happening? Why is it not seen as more dire? Children wash up to the sea and the world is horrified – but not horrified enough because they are still floating and drowning and dying. People blame the parents for being negligent, for putting their children in harm. For doing the one thing they can possibly do to free their children, often leaving themselves behind. Why? Are the war torn streets smelling of gas so appealing? No! Because if there is only room to save one, they very literally cut off a piece of their heart and send it in form of a child on that lifeline of a boat.
Beyond the reality these words paint, they would strike a chord with anyone who has migrated from one place to another, even in the best of ways. How can I make such a statement? I am one of those people and there’s a good chance you are too because this whole planet of ours is borrowed, and that is the honest truth. Whether you came on a plane or train, as a baby or by choice in middle age, leaving home is no small feat.
As Shire points out, nobody does so willingly. Do you know what it’s like to miss the birth of a new child, the final rites of a family elder, the wedding of your sibling? Can you imagine not making it in time for the funeral of your father? These aren’t outrageous hypotheticals. Imagine the years since you last went home increasing because there’s only enough money to make a living, not travel back and forth. Imagine the moment when old friends grow tired of waiting and new ones don’t have patience for your low earnings. Or how about when you work twelve hour shifts earning minimum wage in a trade even though you are a doctor by qualification. All these sacrifices, only to be hated by the “natives”. All these sacrifices only to find yourself flounder on the brink of who you were and who you must be to “fit in.” All these sacrifices to be unsure if your children are well adjusted or too foreign. All these sacrifices to ultimately have no where that resembles home.
How can such few words provoke so many emotions? Perhaps Home is the trigger to release the damn containing the sentiments that are centuries old. The sentiments that unite a majority of people who are so busy in working hard that by the time they lift their heads to see the similarity, their youth has passed, time has passed and it is all but too late. Call it fate or misfortunate that is the life of leaving home. Often resulting in being protected from many aspects of a former life while also being isolated from everything you once thought you knew.
In the time it’s taken me to convey my thoughts, I have not stopped reading Home. Blogs, essays, novels alike, the justice Warsan Shire’s words do is unequalled. For all those political analysts, those big shot businessmen, the economists, the naysayers debating for hours on end, you need only read this work to silence the doubts, hatred and inhumane thinking. Sadly, though I wish this weren’t true, maybe that is exactly why they chose to ignore these words and experiences alike because then they would be forced to look into those children’s eyes and see the monster staring back at them, reflected in an innocent, war-torn refugee’s face.
Like Shire, Maya Angelou said it best:
“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”