I came to this country as a refugee.  This poem embodies the desperation of those who leave home and go out in the world to seek refuge.  I cannot tell you how many times when sharing my experience people have said to me:  “Well, I moved to another house when I was ten and had to leave my home”, as if I had “moved” from Cuba at age fourteen.  I didn’t move.  I lost my land.  I lost my father to a prison for speaking his mind, I lost my family who chose to stay behind to care for him and catapulted me to freedom on my own at age fourteen not really knowing how it would all turn out.  I lost my friends who began leaving the country before me, and the ones that had to stay behind.  I lost connection with my world before there was an internet, when snail mail was the only way to say hello.  I lost my language.  I lost my food, the rhythm of my music, the blueness of my sky, my ocean, and even my precious first love.  I didn’t move.  I was ‘desterrada’, a Spanish word that says it best.  Desterrada.  Stripped of home and land.

As we approach the holidays, my heart goes out to the refugees around the world who like Jesus, another middle eastern refugee, cannot find room at the inn.  Homeless like Him, they wander the world and knock on the door of our homes and our hearts and find no room, meet only our fear.

My heart breaks at their plight.  I want to offer them warmth, kindness, share my home with them, because I don’t know what I would have done at a time when rental properties in Miami had signs saying:  “We don’t allow dogs or Cubans”, if loving arms in Santa Rosa, CA hadn’t opened their homes and hearts for me.  I want all of you who are closing doors to “get” that no one takes this journey for the hell of it.

Please let the voice of this Somali poet, Warsaw Shire, reach the depths of you.  Don’t be afraid.  Reach out in love and welcome.  These travelers are so weary…

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


  1. I understand, well written, but life is bigger than that sometimes, cruel and agonizing, and then beauty, love.
    Always great to be alive.


    1. Carmen, agree that life can be cruel and agonizing. A little unsure of what you mean when you say “life is bigger than that sometimes”. Would you mind clarifying? So appreciate your reading the blog, you thoughtful comments, your participation. Beauty and love. Yes. I think we can help those to come around more often.


  2. Very well said. I have been remembering the “Cubans go home!” that the elderly lady who lived in the apartment above my parents used to shout. This was Miami, circa 1965. And I remember accompanying a newly arrived relative to find a rental apartment, and seeing the signs: “No dogs, no Cubans.” Thanks for sharing the poem.


    1. Thank you so much Elena! 1962 for me, rental sign in the SW, and one on the way to Eden Rock Beach. It was before I left for CA in August of 62 to go to boarding school and I was with my foster family. Have a happy Thanksgiving my friend. Thank you for all the work you do for peace and freedom and love in the world. So glad we are friends.


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