Home: A Poem

I wrote this poem in light of the events in the news recently that have made the word ‘home’ a politically charged one, and also as a memory of my personal experiences that put into question what home might be.

i assumed home was a simple word, in the beginning. 

home was the scent of spices, the simmer of Mama’s curry,

Papa’s omelettes for breakfast on Saturday

soft piano in the background, his easel and paints; 

it was my sister curled on the bed asleep

 eyelids closed like petals in the morning light

yet i know better than to call someplace home, fullstop;

my childhood was a pastiche, a patchwork of clashing tongues, 

clamoring voices, when all I wanted was a solid home

one that I could show to the world, proud that this one voice was my own. 

But my home was a flying seed, and its willful heart carried me onwards

so I retraced my steps, back to where I first found home

there i saw my father’s swift strokes of colour on paper 

noticed his spotless desk, his deft cursive and precise diagrams 

watched my mother, business savvy, multitasker extraordinaire move

 from chef, to manager, to accountant, to mother of two and back again

ready, i took their ingredients, made some cement, and poured my foundations:

finally, I thought, a respectable home. 

Then came a storm and the door trembled, 

Droplets of water dripped from the roof onto my forehead.

I’ve had enough! I said, and punched the wall 

Then the house fell apart like a shoddy cardboard box. 

So I returned to the origin of this home-making mess

And complained in despair: I followed the recipe, I did what you did

then why does it collapse? Am I cursed, or worse, a failure instead? 

How ridiculous! they replied – you can’t make your home with our recipe! 

So I went back to the drawing board: rebuilding my home 

More than the past, the word home is a deep line in the sand. 

Territory. Home is a word that slices, like a weapon: 

Go Back Home, it’s a word that divides us

 – and them. 

when i say I’m discovering and searching for home, i can’t forget

when we watch a match, cheer on that ‘it’s coming home!’ 

maybe we make a line in the sand – do we say, this is where we 

are welcome –

and you – are not? 

These are the questions turning in my mind when you ask me 

If i speak Arabic. Before I can answer, you know, and you

Wave away the question – an unknown language, and I’m

helpless to stop that line marking the space between us 

dear, she says, tilting my head back, snipping my hair 

i ask of her family, wanting to take a step closer to that 

border, smudge the barrier between my sand and yours. 

Maa sha’Allah, in Damascus, my family is still safe, you say with a smile.

What your words spoke to me was a glimpse,

a glimmer of the best that we mean when we say