Warsan Shire's "Home," though never formally published in a collection of poetry, has reached millions of readers. The poem, which captures the pain and trauma of the refugee experience, has gone viral multiple times in response to the global refugee crises of the 21st century. Using a powerful second-person perspective that puts readers right in refugees' shoes, "Home" strives to offer insight into the suffering that drives refugees from their homes, and also forcefully debunks the myth of the burdensome refugee. In doing so, "Home" makes the case for treating refugees with dignity, sympathy, and compassion.
no one leaves ...
... of a shark
you only run ...
... in their throats
the boy you ...
... let you stay.
no one leaves ...
... your neck
and even then ...
... be going back.
you have to ...
... than the land
no one burns ...
no one chooses ...
... like your father
no one could ...
... be tough enough
... mess up ours
how do the ...
... in pieces.
i want to ...
... is more important
no one leaves ...
... safer than here
Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.
Warsan Shire's Biography — Read about the poet's life and work.
The Writing Life of Warsan Shire — An in-depth profile of poet Warsan Shire in The New Yorker magazine.
Poetry on the Refugee Crisis — Five young poets, including Warsan Shire, reflect on the refugee experience.
The Poem Out Loud — Listen to a powerful, illustrated performance of the poem read by the poet herself.
The Refugee Crisis — Information on the global refugee crisis, provided by the International Rescue Committee.
1no one leaves home unless
2home is the mouth of a shark
3you only run for the border
4when you see the whole city running as well
5your neighbors running faster than you
6breath bloody in their throats
7the boy you went to school with
8who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
9is holding a gun bigger than his body
10you only leave home
11when home won’t let you stay.
12no one leaves home unless home chases you
13fire under feet
14hot blood in your belly
15it’s not something you ever thought of doing
16until the blade burnt threats into
18and even then you carried the anthem under
20only tearing up your passport in an airport toilet
21sobbing as each mouthful of paper
22made it clear that you would not be going back.
23you have to understand,
24that no one puts their children in a boat
25unless the water is safer than the land
26no one burns their palms
29no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
30feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
31means something more than journey.
32no one crawls under fences
33no one wants to be beaten
35no one chooses refugee camps
36or strip searches where your
37body is left aching
39because prison is safer
40than a city of fire
41and one prison guard
42in the night
43is better than a truckload
44of men who look like your father
45no one could take it
46no one could stomach it
47no one skin would be tough enough
49go home blacks
53sucking our country dry
54niggers with their hands out
55they smell strange
57messed up their country and now they want
58to mess up ours
59how do the words
60the dirty looks
61roll off your backs
62maybe because the blow is softer
63than a limb torn off
64or the words are more tender
65than fourteen men between
67or the insults are easier
71than your child's body
73i want to go home,
74but home is the mouth of a shark
75home is the barrel of the gun
76and no one would leave home
77unless home chased you to the shore
78unless home told you
79to quicken your legs
80leave your clothes behind
81crawl through the desert
82wade through the oceans
88your survival is more important
89no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
92run away from me now
93i dont know what i’ve become
94but i know that anywhere
95is safer than here