An extract from 'War Poem', first published in The Pity

from War Poem

by Warsan Shire


There is a war going on in my country. In all the years I have
lived in this body, there has been no peace. My mother still
has hope in her heart, she keeps a suitcase packed just in
case. This whole life we have been waiting for our flight to be
called. In the recurring dream I board a plane to Mogadishu.
Every passenger on the plane is my mother, my mother in
the seat beside me reading a crime novel, my mother in an
ill-fitting uniform serving drinks, my mother as the pilot,
winking, tipping his cap. When the plane starts to fall out
the sky I wake up.


Look, one war giving birth to another
one war crawling out from between the
legs of another, out of the rubble
of one war crawls out another
look, a snake swallowing its own head.


What do I do? I think I brought the war with me
unknowingly, perhaps on my skin, plumes
of it in my hair, under my nails. It sits with me,
watches my favourite TV shows,
sighs in the pauses of telephone calls,
sleeps between me and my partner in bed,
stands behind me in the shower – lathers my back,
presses the pill into my night time tongue,
at the bathroom sink uses its blue hand to
touch my cheek.

Even the dentist jumped back from the wormhole
of my mouth, I suspect it was probably the war
he saw. What do I do? I want to make love but my hair
smells of war and running and running.

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