Going Home

“Our bodies are our first homes. If we are not safe in our bodies, we are always homeless.”

–          Shailja Patel

The idea of “home” is one that I’ve thought about a lot. What does it mean to be at home? How does the structure of the home create/protect the people who reside within the home? I’ve never really felt at home anywhere. There is a certain dis ease; a not belonging, that I find in almost every space I’m in. Small things (that’s my spot, don’t touch that, where did you get that) remind me that I’m not home.

I’m at home in my body. Sometimes I get lost within myself. Many times I get lost within myself. Sometimes music does it, sometimes poetry. Sometimes it is life that happens it pulls me away from wherever I am and into myself.

I hate coming back from those trips.

I hate leaving home.

Kenne writes:

Safe spaces are important for everyone. Everyone has a place where they go to for the sake of their own wellbeing. In Kenya, where violence abounds everywhere we turn, we go to these spaces for peace, to collaborate with others, to sustain ourselves. Women especially need these spaces because of the pall of patriarchal and anti-women violence – physical, mental, sexual and ideological – that informs many of the spaces meant to contribute to our freedom and self-actualisation.



You have been told to become smaller.

That the things you expect,

no one can give.

That happiness is

two steps

a broken tricycle

6 missed birthdays

4 unwritten poems

and a lonely tear.

That desire is a cat

tame on the outside

but ferocious on the inside.

You must keep your pussy

in check.

Smaller still,

they insist.

You have folded yourself

to conceal,



(not your fault,

this is not your fault

they are not your fault)

You have followed the

rules, and now,

you sit;

steadily racking days into

the past


to die.

Tony Mochama groped Shailja Patel.

This is what you have been waiting to hear. Already your mind is asking questions “did it happen?” “were you there?” “what personal vendetta do you have against Tony?” “Why didn’t you stop him?” Already your mind is doing all it can to absolve Tony. If, even a small bit of the blame, can be moved onto someone else. Then, yes, let’s do that. There is a shifting of focus.

I’m reminded that the second Tony said he wasn’t there everybody believed him. “How can we know” “but she says” “who is” etc were not questions raised.


When a bullet

ends 14 years

of a heart’s work

why do they call it

cardiac arrest?

You ask yourself

these questions.

No one answers.

The abyss echoes back

“how many times,

must you die

before you learn?”

Kwekwe Mwandaza was murdered by the police.

In the still of the night police stormed a house and shot her, a 14 year old, point blank. According to their story she wielded a panga, ready to attack at any moment. Because if 8 men stormed your house in the middle of the night you wouldn’t reach for your panga. Because 8 trained police officers couldn’t contain a 14 year old with a panga.

Because, for the police, death is easier.


perhaps insisting to exist

is part of your revolution.

The world wants to destroy you

but you refuse to die.

Instead you stand

“I am here

I will always be here.”

They laugh

and continue to cut grass

“yes, you will.”

I’m thinking about the continuing menace in Liz watching her rapists cut grass. The re-living that she had to go through over the next few months. I’m worried about her sitting, watching her back. I fear for her.

The police were never an option though – were they?

Still, people went.

“Let us stand with all victims and survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Let us create a society where sexual violence is unknown and unimaginable.”

–          Shailja Patel



you try to sit

but the scars

on your back insist

that you stand.

You try to stand

but the scars

on your feet

also refuse.

So you lie,

flat on your stomach,

face down,

lips parted,

silently screaming

into the earth.

And then you hear the


22 million voices

silently screaming

into the earth.

You are not alone.

I come back to who we allow to be safe at home. While the home has been romanticized as a place of solace, of comfort, I’m reminded that home has always been a battle ground for many women. A place of physical and emotional abuse. A place of unappreciated work. At a protest march a chant is started, “our bodies are not your battle fields.”


who will listen?

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