Poem of the Week, by Warsan Shire

Screen Shot 2018-04-05 at 8.44.01 AMI’ll rewrite this whole life and this time there’ll be so much love, / you won’t be able to see beyond it. 

These lines, from the gorgeous poem below, bring me back to childhood and the novel that more than any other book made me want to be a writer. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is about Francie Nolan, who grew up on the mean streets of Brooklyn in the early part of the 20th century.

She was a lonely girl, even though she was loved, and so was I. Her love for the world and being alive in it was wild and intense, and so was mine. She was filled with longing and confusion, and so was I. That one teacher –the one she adored—told her that in life, she should tell the truth of the way things happened, but that in the stories she wrote, she could make up her own endings. She could write life the way it should be. Warsan Shire is too young to have read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but she knows way down deep in her bones the profound power of words to transcend experience.  

 

 

Backwards, by Warsan Shire
 
         for Saaid Shire
The poem can start with him walking backwards into a room.
He takes off his jacket and sits down for the rest of his life;
that’s how we bring Dad back.
I can make the blood run back up my nose, ants rushing into a hole.
We grow into smaller bodies, my breasts disappear,
your cheeks soften, teeth sink back into gums.
I can make us loved, just say the word.
Give them stumps for hands if even once they touched us without consent,
I can write the poem and make it disappear.
Step-Dad spits liquor back into glass,
Mum’s body rolls back up the stairs, the bone pops back into place,
maybe she keeps the baby.
Maybe we’re okay kid?
I’ll rewrite this whole life and this time there’ll be so much love,
you won’t be able to see beyond it.

You won’t be able to see beyond it,
I’ll rewrite this whole life and this time there’ll be so much love.
Maybe we’re okay kid,
maybe she keeps the baby.
Mum’s body rolls back up the stairs, the bone pops back into place,
Step-Dad spits liquor back into glass.
I can write the poem and make it disappear,
give them stumps for hands if even once they touched us without consent,
I can make us loved, just say the word.
Your cheeks soften, teeth sink back into gums
we grow into smaller bodies, my breasts disappear.
I can make the blood run back up my nose, ants rushing into a hole,
that’s how we bring Dad back.
He takes off his jacket and sits down for the rest of his life.
The poem can start with him walking backwards into a room.

 

 

For more information on Warsan Shire, please read this profile of her.

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