Friday, June 22, 2018


Image from Wikimedia Creative Commons
Like millions of other Americans, and others around the world, I have been deeply, deeply grieved by the photographs that have emerged from our borders this week. I know those children. I teach those children. And I can't bear to see them locked up in cages, apart from their parents, with no toys or books or love. So, so sad. So, so scary. So absolutely, incredibly, fundamentally wrong. 

On a personal note, I know, firsthand, about the damage that is being done to children's hearts and minds and bodies. My sons, who I adopted at ages 7 and 9, live with Reactive Attachment Disorder every single day. We have been a family for 15 years, twice as long as they were in the foster care system (which I am not in any way comparing with the current situation at the border), and even now, 15 years later, they struggle. Despite years and years of therapy, they don't attach deeply to other people. They have acquaintances, but not deep friendships or girlfriends. They turn to substances to dull the pain and fill their lives. I fear similar issues for all of the children who are torn from their parents' arms and  locked in cages.

Penny Kittle shared this poem, which originally came from Tricia Ebarvia, on Twitter yesterday. The author, Warsan Shire, is the daughter of refugees from Somali. Penny shared the poem with the tweet, "This poem should be in the hands of everyone this week." I agree with her. Sometimes poetry is just way more eloquent than I could ever hope to be. 

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 toilet
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

Read the rest of the poem here

Michelle Kogan is hosting Poetry Friday. For her post, she reviews Margaret Simon's new book, Bayou Song. I can't wait to get hold of a copy! Congratulations, and happy book birthday, Margaret! 

Next Friday, the Poetry Friday Roundup will be here!


Liz Steinglass said...

What an incredible poem. Everyone everywhere should read it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Carol. I wish I knew what to do.

Jean said...

Jean is the anonymous!

Kay said...

I found and shared the same poem this week. For all of those trying to defend (really) this morally repugnant policy by saying it will keep people from making such a dangerous journey (and the journey is dangerous), I ask can you imagine the fear and horror you must be living it to think this journey with all its danger and no surety of success is the better option. I hope we remember that we are called to welcome these people and offer refuge.

Ramona said...

Carol, thanks for sharing this poem. I hadn't seen it yet. It's been a heartbreaking week!

Linda B said...

I have two nephews who are grown now & struggle, though both have good families and are successful in their work. They were adopted at 5 and 14. The 14 year old was in about 9 foster homes first. I know something of this trauma & keep thinking of ALL THOSE CHILDREN. It is horrendous and tragic. Thanks for this heart-rending poem. What a terrible week on top of all the other weeks.

Linda Mitchell said...

I'm also an adoptive mom and I really understand of what you write. It's been a paralyzing week for me....made worse by a family member that is truly part of the president's base. Thank you for bearing witness. Thank you for sharing poetry as way of discussing this. Thank you.

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Thank you for your own words of experience (you've described why anyone who knows children knows that our administration--and people! individual people with children of their own!--is committing human rights abuses against children), and for this wrenching poem. Let us shout them, the words of someone who has been there...

Tara said...

That is, indeed, a poem for our times, Carol. I am so sad for the turn our country has made - and hopeful that November will help us regain some sense of moral and humane direction.

Michelle Kogan said...

Thanks for sharing this poem and for your voice for children Carol, I read it over on Kay's blog. Children around the world are all of our responsibility!

KatApel - said...

This poem is brutal in its honesty, and a reader cannot be unmoved.

Molly Hogan said...

"no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark"

Oh...this poem is so powerful, such a cry from the heart. How I wish that hardened hearts and minds would read it and see past their limited views.