“No One Puts Their Children in a Boat Unless the Water is Safer than the Land”

With this Sunday finding Mark’s Gospel bringing us the famous lesson on storms and the fact that President Biden offered a way for immigrants to stay together in our country, and it also being a week of remembering freedom with Juneteenth, I decided to go deep into the water to remind us that, as Catholic Christians, it is our duty to preserve life, to welcome the foreigner, to uphold the Gospel, and to give refugee to the stranger. It is our job to not withhold life or bread or care. We are all an immigrant people. Our gospel reminds us that we, too, can rest in faith during the storm. Our boat isn’t going down, because Jesus is on board, but for many, especially those yearning to ‘breathe free’, that is always true. Many will die on their journey over land and sea, as they seek a better life, and those who make it to our borders often meet the hateful ‘white only’ rhetoric of so many who forget we are all products of refugees.  I pray we could be a better people , but when our leaders inspire us with Nazi words of hate, I am no longer so sure. I do know Jesus weeps. I sure do so I looked for another way. Maybe this poem will help?

I have found that poetry and art aren’t just indulgences, or for decoration. They’re forms of expression which can do things that essays, or political speeches, or my reflections simply can’t. Poetry and art can convey additional aspects of the human experience and help us to see life from a different angle. This is why Saint Miriam is filled with beautiful images, artwork, and iconography.

Warsan Shire, a Somali-British writer and poet in her early 30’s, uses her work to explore stories of escape and journeys. The poem below, entitled “Home”, is written from the perspective of someone escaping violence, and losing their home. Not only is Shire a very talented writer, but this poem is also a powerful answer to common claims that asylum seekers are moving for economic reasons, or because they just feel like it. The majority of the Syrian people who have attempted to enter Europe in recent months were legitimately fearing for their lives and felt like they had no other choice. Now, teems of Mexican Nationals and so many more come to us and we must find a way to be secure, but to aid, as well. 

If you don’t enjoy graphic poetic images, this poem may not be for you, but if you’re ready for a vivid picture, read on and then, sit in the boat with Jesus and ask, ‘what would I do?’


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

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

go home blacks
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
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 told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
be hunger
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

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