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what they did yesterday afternoon by Warsan Shire


How did you know, R. asked me. He said, I didn’t know how to love the first time. I said I was in the middle of a conversation one day, and then suddenly the realisation hit me and my face went askew, my heart started beating so fast I thought I was having a panic attack.

How did you survive, J. asked me. She said, I don’t think I could have made it out alive, all those years of abuse. Inner strength, I joked, while in my mind I thought: because something inside me refused to die.

How can you live in this country, D. asked me. I opened my mouth to answer then closed it again. He will never understand what it means to be brown.

Maybe it was a panic attack.

I loved and it hurt everywhere.

what they did yesterday afternoon
Warsan Shire

they set my aunts house on fire
i cried the way women on tv do
folding at the middle
like a five pound note.
i called the boy who used to love me
tried to ‘okay’ my voice
i said hello
he said warsan, what’s wrong, what’s happened?

i’ve been praying,
and these are what my prayers look like;
dear god
i come from two countries
one is thirsty
the other is on fire
both need water.

later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered

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This poem appeared in the poet’s own blog in 2015, which is now unavailable. Shared here with profound gratitude.

Read more works by Warsan ShireFind books by this poet • Or view my library 

Explore poems in pursuit of: despairthe worldbeing other • Or browse the index


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Comments (1)

  • Nikola

    Thank you for this. Keep refusing to die. We just gotta trudge along, no matter how hard.


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