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We asked you to finish the sentence “Home is ….” and you shared with us some of the most beautiful words we’ve ever read.


We then asked Mohamed Hassan, Radio New Zealand journalist and co-founder of Waxed Poetic Revival, to turn your words into a poem.

On the night of the Lifewise Big Sleepout 2016, John MacDonald, Superintendent of Lifewise and Chaplain at Large, recited it.

This is your poem.

Home is …


I have known many things to be home

my mother’s arms

the dusty eyes of Cairo

too many cups of tea and a weak bladder

car horns dripping from the concrete heat

a soundtrack to fall asleep to

my grandmother’s hallways, the blowup adidas pillow hanging from the ceiling

four walls and an open fire

the insides of Auckland summers

the Nile road home with the fist-sized hole in the wall

the caterpillar buried in the yard

home videos sent from home, grainy and skipping heart beats

the Karaka Street with the basketball hoop and cockroach infestation

clean bedsheets in an ocean of night shifts

the mosque on Ramadan nights

Devonport’s open palms and midnight fishermen

the Quebec road house we never could leave

hot food and warm love

carpeted dreams

a bachelor’s degree

Netflix and male privilege

somewhere to burn my toast in the morning


But there are homes I have never known

the back of a 7-seater van

my uncle’s garage

Te Puea Marae

the front steps of a WINZ office

Albert Park after all the students have gone

Karangahape’s elbows

SkyCity casino on a Monday morning

the winter through Christchurch bones

a red zoned family tree

John Campbell’s voice

alcohol’s embrace

the traffic of restlessness

a burning dignity


The two nights I spent in a Gisborne car were intrepid

a middleclass lust for adventure

the Dubai airport floor I slept on when I couldn’t afford a hotel

my car between work shifts under the harbour bridge

outside a police siege in Kawerau

the bed shared with four friends in Apia

a story I could retell

a story I could exaggerate for dramatic effect


But none of it was permanent

none of it a full stop

no place I would hang refuge, a mast

and wait for the storms to end


I have been blessed with many things I never asked for

a center of gravity

kind-hearted landlords

the love of family

a place to sleep every night

in all these ways I am guilty of affluence

guilty of making a home out of ignorance

I walk quickly and avoid eye contact

when I’m faced with anything else

toss a gold coin and smile and feel generous

thank God as I walk away


I have often wondered if this city will daydream itself dry

will it bury its secrets until they are too many to ignore

will it wake one night in a sweat and know it has failed its children

will it feel their battles raging on its back

will it lay in bed and promise to change

will it open itself wide enough for everyone to fit

will it give more

will it volunteer at the city mission

will it love those who remind it of its shortcomings

will it ask the government the right questions

will it look itself in the mirror

will it do more


I have often done good things for the wrong reasons

to quench my guilt and not out of responsibility

or love

or purpose

but I am trying to change

I am trying to earn every home I was handed down

every safety I was given

every excuse I could afford to make

I am trying to do more

to do all I can

to make my existence liveable for everyone else

to be proud to call this community home




This is my story

what’s yours?