Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth Quotes

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Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire
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“I belong deeply to myself.”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“To my daughter I will say, when men come, set yourself on fire.”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“Sad people have the gift of time, while the world dizzies everyone else; they remain stagnant, their bodies refusing to follow pace with the universe. With these kind of people everything aches for too long, everything moves without rush, wounds are always wet.”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“I want to make love, but my hair smells of war and running and running.”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
tags: love, war
“I know a few things to be true. I do not know where I am going, where I have come from is disappearing, I am unwelcome and my beauty is not beauty here. My body is burning with the shame of not belonging, my body is longing.”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“Apathy is the same as war, it all kills you, she says. Slow like cancer in the breast or fast like a machete in the neck.”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“I know a few things to be true. I do not know where I am going, where I have come from is disappearing, I am unwelcome and my beauty is not beauty here. My body is burning with the shame of not belonging, my body is longing. I am the sin of memory and the absence of memory. I watch the news and my mouth becomes a sink full of blood. The lines, the forms, the people at the desks, the calling cards, the immigration officers, the looks on the street, the cold settling deep into my bones, the English classes at night, the distance I am from home. But Alhamdulilah all of this is better than the scent of a woman completely on fire, or a truckload of men, who look like my father pulling out my teeth and nails, or fourteen men between my legs, or a gun, or a promise, or a lie, or his name, or his manhood in my mouth.”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“I want to lay down, but these countries are like uncles who touch you when you're young and asleep. Look at all these borders foaming at the mouth with bodies broken and desperate...I spent days and nights in the stomach of the truck; I did not come out the same. Sometimes it feels like someone else is wearing my body.”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“Fire
 
 
 
 
i
 
The morning you were made to leave
she sat on the front steps,
dress tucked between her thighs,
a packet of Marlboro Lights
near her bare feet, painting her nails
until the polish curdled.
Her mother phoned–
 
What do you mean he hit you?
Your father hit me all the time
but I never left him.
He pays the bills
and he comes home at night,
what more do you want?
 
Later that night she picked the polish off
with her front teeth until the bed you shared
for seven years seemed speckled with glitter
and blood.
 
 
 
ii
 
On the drive to the hotel, you remember
“the funeral you went to as a little boy,
double burial for a couple who
burned to death in their bedroom.
The wife had been visited
by her husband’s lover,
a young and beautiful woman who paraded
her naked body in the couple’s kitchen,
lifting her dress to expose breasts
mottled with small fleshy marks,
a back sucked and bruised, then dressed herself
and walked out of the front door.
The wife, waiting for her husband to come home,
doused herself in lighter fluid. On his arrival
she jumped on him, wrapping her legs around
his torso. The husband, surprised at her sudden urge,
carried his wife to the bedroom, where
she straddled him on their bed, held his face
against her chest and lit a match.
 
 
 
iii
 
A young man greets you in the elevator.
He smiles like he has pennies hidden in his cheeks.
You’re looking at his shoes when he says
the rooms in this hotel are sweltering.
Last night in bed I swear I thought
my body was on fire.”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“The Kitchen
 
 
 
 
 
Half a papaya and a palmful of sesame oil;
lately, your husband’s mind has been elsewhere.
 
Honeyed dates, goat’s milk;
you want to quiet the bloating of salt.
 
Coconut and ghee butter;
he kisses the back of your neck at the stove.
 
Cayenne and roasted pine nuts;
you offer him the hollow of your throat.
 
Saffron and rosemary;
you don’t ask him her name.
 
Vine leaves and olives;
you let him lift you by the waist.
 
Cinnamon and tamarind;
lay you down on the kitchen counter.
 
Almonds soaked in rose water;
your husband is hungry.
 
Sweet mangoes and sugared lemon;
he had forgotten the way you taste.

Sour dough and cumin;
but she cannot make him eat, like you.”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“They ask me how did you get here? Can’t you see it on my body? The Libyan desert red with immigrant bodies, the Gulf of Aden bloated, the city of Rome with no jacket. I hope the journey meant more than miles because all of my children are in the water. I thought the sea was safer than the land. I want to make love, but my hair smells of war and running and running. I want to lay down, but these countries are like uncles who touch you when you’re young and asleep. Look at all these borders, foaming at the mouth with bodies broken and desperate. I’m the colour of hot sun on the face, my mother’s remains were never buried. I spent days and nights in the stomach of the truck; I did not come out the same. Sometimes it feels like someone else is wearing my body.”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“I hear them say go home, I hear them say fucking immigrants, fucking refugees. Are they really this arrogant? Do they not know that stability is like a lover with a sweet mouth upon your body one second; the next you are a tremor lying on the floor covered in rubble and old currency waiting for its return. All I can say is, I was once like you, the apathy, the pity, the ungrateful placement and now my home is the mouth of a shark, now my home is the barrel of a gun. I’ll see you on the other side.”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“Grandfather’s Hands
 
 
 
 
 
 
Your grandfather’s hands were brown.
Your grandmother kissed each knuckle,
 
circled an island into his palm
and told him which parts they would share,
which part they would leave alone.
 
She wet a finger to draw where the ocean would be
on his wrist, kissed him there,
named the ocean after herself.
 
Your grandfather’s hands were slow but urgent.
Your grandmother dreamt them,
 
a clockwork of fingers finding places to own–
under the tongue, collarbone, bottom lip,
arch of foot.
 
Your grandmother names his fingers after seasons–
index finger, a wave of heat,
middle finger, rainfall.
 
Some nights his thumb is the moon
nestled just under her rib.

“Your grandparents often found themselves
in dark rooms, mapping out
each other’s bodies,
 
claiming whole countries
with their mouths.”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“I’ve heard people using your songs as prayer, begging god in falsetto.”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“Well, I think home spat me out, the blackouts and curfews like tongue against loose tooth. God, do you know how difficult it is, to talk about the day your own city dragged you by the hair, past the old prison, past the school gates, past the burning torsos erected on poles like flags? When I meet others like me I recognise the longing, the missing, the memory of ash on their faces. No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark. I’ve been carrying the old anthem in my mouth for so long that there’s no space for another song, another tongue or another language. I know a shame that shrouds, totally engulfs. I tore up and ate my own passport in an airport hotel. I’m bloated with language I can’t afford to forget.”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“You were a city exiled from skin, your mouth a burning church.”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“Sometimes it feels like someone else is wearing my body.”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“Old Spice
 
 
 
 
 
Every Sunday afternoon he dresses in his old army uniform,
tells you the name of every man he killed.
His knuckles are unmarked graves.
 
Visit him on a Tuesday and he will describe
the body of every woman he could not save.
He’ll say she looked like your mother
and you will feel a storm in your stomach.
 
Your grandfather is from another generation–
Russian degrees and a school yard Cuban national anthem,
communism and religion. Only music makes him cry now.
 
He married his first love, her with the long curls down
to the small of her back. Sometimes he would
pull her to him, those curls wrapped around his hand
like rope.
 
He lives alone now. Frail, a living memory
reclining in a seat, the room orbiting around him.
You visit him but never have anything to say.
When he was your age he was a man.
You retreat into yourself whenever he says your name.
 
Your mother’s father,
“the almost martyr,
can load a gun under water
in under four seconds.
 
Even his wedding night was a battlefield.
A Swiss knife, his young bride,
his sobs as he held Italian linen between her legs.
 
His face is a photograph left out in the sun,
the henna of his beard, the silver of his eyebrows
the wilted handkerchief, the kufi and the cane.
 
Your grandfather is dying.
He begs you Take me home yaqay,
I just want to see it one last time;
you don’t know how to tell him that it won’t be
anything like the way he left it.”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“You are her mother.
Why did you not warn her,
hold her like a rotting boat
and tell her that men will not love her
if she is covered in continents,
if her teeth are small colonies,
if her stomach is an island
if her thighs are borders?

What man wants to lie down
and watch the world burn
in his bedroom?

Your daughter ’s face is a small riot,
her hands are a civil war,
a refugee camp behind each ear,
a body littered with ugly things.

But God,
doesn’t she wear
the world well?”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“Apathy is the same as war, it all kills you,”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“Her body is one long sigh.”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“My body is burning with the shame of not belonging, […]”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“stability is like a lover with a sweet mouth upon your body one second; the next you are a tremor lying on the floor covered in rubble and old currency waiting for its return.”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“Did you tell people that songs weren’t the same as a warm body, a soft mouth?”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“The summer my cousins return from Nairobi, we sit in a circle by the oak tree in my aunt’s garden. They look older. Amel’s hardened nipples push through the paisley of her blouse, minarets calling men to worship.”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“[…] in dark rooms, mapping out
each other’s bodies,
claiming whole countries
with their mouths.”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“Well, I think home spat me out, the blackouts and curfews like tongue against loose tooth. God, do you know how difficult it is, to talk about the day your own city dragged you by the hair, past the old prison, past the school gates, past the burning torsos erected on poles like flags? When I meet others like me I recognise the longing, the missing, the memory of ash on their faces.”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“Did you tell people that songs weren’t the same as a warm body or a soft mouth? Miriam, I’ve heard people using your songs as prayer, begging god in falsetto. You were a city exiled from skin, your mouth a burning church.”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
“Later that night she picked the polish off
with her front teeth until the bed you shared
for seven years seemed speckled with glitter
and blood.”
Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth

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