7 Warsan Shire Poems That Just Get Me

Some of you may not have known who Warsan Shire was until Beyoncè’s Lemonade visual album released on HBO, and you heard some of her poetry being read by Queen B, herself.

However, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you may know that I’ve posted about Shire before (a few times, actually). I don’t remember how I came across her work, but I’m glad I did, because there are few writers whose poetry really hit me at my core.

There’s no doubt the 27-year-old Somali-Brit poet is ridiculously talented, and every one of her words seem to perfectly describe a piece of me that I never thought could be so accurately described by a perfect stranger. With that said, I’ve decided to share a few of my favorite pieces from Shire, because maybe her words can find a home in your heart, too.

  1. “give your daughters difficult names.
    give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue.
    my name makes you want to tell me the truth.
    my name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right.”

2. “every mouth you’ve ever kissed
was just practice
all the bodies you’ve ever undressed
and ploughed in to
were preparing you for me.
i don’t mind tasting them in the
memory of your mouth
they were a long hall way
a door half open
a single suit case still on the conveyor belt
was it a long journey?
did it take you long to find me?
you’re here now,
welcome home.”

3. “I’m not sad, but the boys who are looking for sad girls always find me.
I’m not a girl anymore and I’m not sad anymore.
You want me to be a tragic backdrop so that you can appear to be illuminated, so that people can say,
‘Wow, isn’t he so terribly brave to love a girl who is so obviously sad?’
You think I’ll be the dark sky so you can be the star? I’ll swallow you whole.”

4. “i don’t know when love became elusive
what i know, is that no one i know has it
my fathers arms around my mothers neck
fruit too ripe to eat, a door half way open
when your name is a just a hand i can never hold
everything i have ever believed in, becomes magic.
i think of lovers as trees, growing to and
from one another searching for the same light,
my mothers laughter in a dark room,
a photograph greying under my touch,
this is all i know how to do, carry loss around until
i begin to resemble every bad memory,
every terrible fear,
every nightmare anyone has ever had.
i ask did you ever love me?
you say of course, of course so quickly
that you sound like someone else
i ask are you made of steel? are you made of iron?
you cry on the phone, my stomach hurts
i let you leave, i need someone who knows how to stay.”

5. “two people who were once very close can
without blame
or grand betrayal
become strangers.
perhaps this is the saddest thing in the world.”

6. “you are a horse running alone
and he tries to tame you
compares you to an impossible highway
to a burning house
says you are blinding him
that he could never leave you
forget you
want anything but you
you dizzy him, you are unbearable
every woman before or after you
is doused in your name
you fill his mouth
his teeth ache with memory of taste
his body just a long shadow seeking yours
but you are always too intense
frightening in the way you want him
unashamed and sacrificial
he tells you that no man can live up to the one who
lives in your head
and you tried to change didn’t you?
closed your mouth more
tried to be softer
less volatile, less awake
but even when sleeping you could feel
him traveling away from you in his dreams
so what did you want to do love
split his head open?
you can’t make homes out of human beings
someone should have already told you that
and if he wants to leave
then let him leave
you are terrifying
and strange and beautiful
something not everyone knows how to love.”

7. “how far have you walked for men who’ve never held your feet in their laps?
how often have you bartered with bone, only to sell yourself short?
why do you find the unavailable so alluring?
where did it begin? what went wrong? and who made you feel so worthless?
if they wanted you, wouldn’t they have chosen you?
all this time, you were begging for love silently, thinking they couldn’t hear you, but they smelt it on you, you must have known that they could taste the desperate on your skin?
and what about the others that would do anything for you, why did you make them love you until you could not stand it?
how are you both of these women, both flighty and needful?
where did you learn this, to want what does not want you?
where did you learn this, to leave those that want to stay?”

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