Blessed to return ‘home’

As I write this, I am readying to head to Fort Frances for the launch of my first novel, “MEADOWLARK” (published by NeWest Press).
I’m so honoured and happy to make the journey “home” for this event. I still can’t believe it is really happening.
I was going to poke fun at myself while I studied my face in the mirror and wished I looked (not was) 30 years younger. I laughed out loud when I decided to wax my own eyebrows—just to tidy things up and make my appearance less frightening.
I imagined ripping the whole of my eyebrows off by mistake and having to draw them back on with a Sharpie, as though I was a human version of Mrs. Potato Head.
And though I’m giggling and smiling with anticipation at the thought of seeing so many dear friends, I find my mind going somewhere else. All that seems important at this moment, all that has value in my landscape, is the poem I heard read on CBC on “The Sunday Edition” with Michael Enright.
The poem was written by a young Somali-British poet named Warsan Shire, who was born in Kenya to Somali parents but raised in London, England.
Warsan was the very first Young Poet Laureate of London in 2013. Her poem is beyond powerful and I share it with you here.
As I travel home, I am blessed to have the opportunity to go toward home rather than having to flee it.
“Home”
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 neighbours running faster than you.
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 would leave home unless home chased you, fire under feet, hot blood in your belly.
It’s not something you ever thought about doing, and so when you did—you carried the anthem under your breath, waiting until the airport toilet to tear up the passport and swallow each mouthful of paper, making it clear that you would not be going back.
You have to understand, no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land. Who would choose to spend days and nights in the stomach of a truck unless the miles travelled meant something more than journey?
No one would choose to crawl under fences, be beaten until your shadow leaves you, raped, then drowned, forced to the bottom of the boat because you are darker, be sold, starved, shot at the border like a sick animal, be pitied, lose your name, lose your family, make a refugee camp a home for a year or two or 10, stripped and searched, find prison everywhere.
And if you survive, and you are greeted on the other side with “go home” blacks, refugees, dirty immigrants, asylum-seekers, sucking our country dry of milk, dark, with their hands out; smell strange, savage.
Look what they’ve done to their own countries, what will they do to ours?
The dirty looks in the street softer than a limb torn off, the indignity of everyday life more tender than 14 men who look like your father, between your legs, insults easier to swallow than rubble, than your child’s body in pieces.
For now, forget about pride; your survival is more important.
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 tells you to leave what you could not behind, even if it was human.
No one leaves home until home is a damp voice in your ear saying, “Leave, run now.”
I don’t know what I’ve become.

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