Warsan Shire is a Kenyan-born, Somali-British poet, and her words speak to the soul and heart of this generation. She is brilliant. The following are quotes taken from her poetry, sometimes using different lines from the same poem. Her most notable works in “Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth” are all over this compilation. The last quote is an entire poem titled, “For Women Who Are Difficult To Love” and is truly a masterpiece. It’s near impossible not to fall for her words of love, pain, beauty, and heartbreak.
Mother says there are locked rooms inside all women, kitchen of love, bedroom of grief, bathroom of apathy. Sometimes, the men, they come with keys, and sometimes the men, they come with hammers.
Give your daughters difficult names. Give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. My name makes you want to tell me the truth. My name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right.
At the end of the day, it isn’t where I came from. Maybe home is somewhere I’m going and never have been before.
When I love, I love: wholly, thoroughly, completely, drowning in everything. Every glance can be a conversation, eyes just playing and saying what needs to be said. Silence is loud, and the air becomes heavy. I want you. I want all of you.
It’s not my responsibility to be beautiful. I’m not alive for that purpose. My existence is not about how desirable you find me.
No, he loves me he just makes me cry a lot.
Loving you was like going to war; I never came back the same.
I’m lonely so I do lonely things.
We emotionally manipulated one another until we thought it was love. Forgive me, I was lonely so I chose you.
His eyes were the same color as the sea in a postcard someone sends you when they love you, but not enough to stay.
If it’ll keep my heart soft, break my heart every day.
I won’t glorify or romanticize heartbreak, for me it was a kind of death and I was forced to keep living.
How far have you walked for men who’ve never held your feet in their laps? How often have you bartered with bone, only to sell yourself short? Why do you find the unavailable so alluring? Where did it begin? What went wrong? And who made you feel so worthless? If they wanted you, wouldn’t they have chosen you? All this time, you were begging for love silently, thinking they couldn’t hear you, but they smelt it on you, you must have known that they could taste the desperate on your skin? And what about the others that would do anything for you, why did you make them love you until you could not stand it? How are you both of these women, both flighty and needful? Where did you learn this, to want what does not want you? Where did you learn this, to leave those that want to stay?
He knows all of my secrets and still wants to kiss me.
I’m lovely and lonely. I belong deeply to myself.
My alone feels so good, I’ll only have you if you’re sweeter than my solitude.
Document the moments you feel most in love with yourself – what you’re wearing, who you’re around, what you’re doing. Recreate and repeat.
Fit in here, in my palm, in my shadow. Don’t be bigger than my idea of you, don’t be more beautiful than I can accept, don’t be more human than i am willing to allow you to be and be quiet. You’re too loud, even your un-belonging is loud. Quiet your dreams, your voice, your hair, quiet your skin, quiet your displacement, quiet your longing, your colour, quiet your walk, your eyes. Who said you could look at me like that? Who said you could exist without permission? Why are you even here? Why aren’t you shrinking? I think of you often. You vibrate. You walk into a room and the temperature changes. I lean in and almost recognise you as human. But, no. We can’t have that.”
But sometimes your light attracts moths and your warmth attracts parasites. Protect your space and energy.
To my daughter I will say, when men come, set yourself on fire.
There’s nothing rebellious about loving something that can’t love you. You’re a woman, you should have known that men in the city would split you in half searching for their fathers in between your legs.
Two people who were once very close can without blame or grand betrayal become strangers. Perhaps this is the saddest thing in the world.
I’m a lover without a lover.
We took such care of tomorrow and died on the way there.
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.
The ego hurts you like this: You become obsessed with the one person who does not love you. Blind to the rest who do.
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.
I do not beg you to stay because I am begging God that you do not leave.
You want me to be a tragic backdrop so that you can appear to be illuminated, so that people can say ‘Wow, isn’t he so terribly brave to love a girl who is so obviously sad?’ You think I’ll be the dark sky so you can be the star? I’ll swallow you whole.
Perhaps the problem is not the intensity of your love but the quality of the people you are loving.
I’m sorry that you were not truly loved and that it made you cruel.
You are a horse running alone and he tries to tame you, compares you to an impossible highway, to a burning house. Says you are blinding him, that he could never leave you, forget you, want anything but you. You dizzy him, you are unbearable. Every woman before or after you is doused in your name. You fill his mouth. His teeth ache with memory of taste, his body just a long shadow seeking yours. But you are always too intense, frightening in the way you want him, unashamed and sacrificial. He tells you that no man can live up to the one who lives in your head and you tried to change didn’t you? Closed your mouth more, tried to be softer, prettier, less volatile, less awake. But even when sleeping you could feel him travelling away from you in his dreams. So what did you want to do love, split his head open? You can’t make homes out of human beings. Someone should have already told you that. And if he wants to leave then let him leave. You are terrifying and strange and beautiful. Something not everyone knows how to love.