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Posts Tagged ‘refugees’

Two seasons and at least one ocean separate today’s guest poster, Yen-Fang Heng of Australia, from my summery poem-elf perch in northern Michigan, and yet we might as well be sitting side-by-side for how much the poem she selected belongs to every moment of my day. I do love that little birdie she drew.

 

Yen also posted “Home” by Somali-poet Warsan Shire on a community bulletin board.  It’s a much-needed addition to the global conversation about “sheltering in place.” I’ve included an animated version of the poem.

 

Thank you, Yen, for your poem selections and thoughtful commentary.

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Spring (Again)

by Michael Ryan

 

The birds were louder this morning,

raucous, oblivious, tweeting their teensy bird-brains out.

It scared me, until I remembered it’s spring.

How do they know it? A stupid question.

Thank you, birdies.  I had forgotten how promise feels.

 

Here is the poem I chose because it is short and sweet and because I could illustrate it with one of my drawings!  I am afraid I do not know anything about Michael Ryan, I just came across his poem in one of the many poetry blogs, emails I subscribe to.  I googled his name and found out that he is 74 years old and taught creative writing and literature in the University of California, Irvine.  I love the words, how they are replete with the promise and the potential of spring and new beginnings.  And I love how I could accompany it with one of my sketches.  It is not spring where I am, but to me the words herald the spring ahead of us, when Covid-19 is contained, and the promises that that brings.

 

Like everyone else in the world, we are in isolation, although there has been slight easing of the lockdown in Australia.  I left this poem on the hedges in the park near where I live.  Hopefully it will survive the weather for long enough so that various people will come across it and read it and enjoy the promises of spring.

 

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In these days of Covid-19, we are all being asked to stay home.  Juxtaposed against this backdrop are the draconian policies against refugees and asylum seekers being perpetrated by the Australian government (the country of which I am a citizen) and by numerous governments in countries that are relatively well-off.  For all those refugees, where is home?  This poem, Home, by Warsan Shire is gut-wrenching but is a timely reminder of why refugees flee:

 

‘no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear

saying-

leave,

run away from me now

I don’t know what I’ve become

but I know that anywhere

is safer than here’

 

Those of us who have homes to stay in, do we ever stop to think about what is it like not to have a home to go to?  Not to have a home to shelter in?

 

I wanted to post this on a community noticeboard near where I live.  I don’t really have an ‘inspired’ place to leave the poem, but I figured that at least on the noticeboard, it is sheltered (there’s that word again) and away from rain, and hopefully may last for a little while, so that as many people as possible will get to read these incredibly moving, incredibly realistic words.  Warsan is a Kenyan-born Somali poet, writer and educator based in London.  However, when I copied the poem onto a piece of paper, it was too long!  I realised then how much goes into the choice of a poem.

 

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

 

the

go home blacks

refugees

dirty immigrants

asylum seekers

sucking our country dry

niggers with their hands out

they smell strange

savage 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’s 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

drown

save

be hungry

beg

forget pride

your survival is more important

 

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear

saying

leave,

run away from me now

I don’t know what I’ve become

but I know that anywhere

is safer than here

 

 

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