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We never unpacked,

dreaming in the wrong language,

carrying our mother’s fears in our feet—

if he raises his voice we will flee

if he looks bored we will pack our bags

unable to excise the refugee from our hearts,

unable to sleep through the night.


The refugee’s heart has six chambers.

In the first is your mother’s unpacked suitcase.

In the second, your father cries into his hands.

The third room is an immigration office,

your severed legs in the fourth,

in the fifth a uterus—yours?

The sixth opens with the right papers.


I can’t get the refugee out of my body,

I bolt my body whenever I get the chance.

How many pills does it take to fall asleep?

How many to meet the dead?


The refugee’s heart often grows

an outer layer. An assimilation.

It cocoons the organ. Those unable to grow the extra skin

die within the first six months in a host country.


At each and every checkpoint the refugee is asked

are you human?


The refugee is sure it’s still human but worries that overnight,

while it slept, there may have been a change in classification.


Warsan Shire

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translated from the Polish written by
Tomasz Różycki