Kai Cheng Thom | HOME IS THE FIRE


by time you found our sanctuary

for witches on the run
your body was already half-burnt

as you stepped into our circle
clothes fresh from the rain

your flesh was still sizzling
your tongue was still aflame

when you tried to speak the ritual greeting
only the sound of crackling came out of your mouth

o, how we clasped our hands around you
as we sang the blessing songs

you covered your ears, you screamed and screamed
to drown out our singing voices

we filled our pool with lavender and cedar
to wash you clean with purifying herbs

the bathwater boiled and turned to steam
the moment it touched your skin

we took you to our sacred garden
your touch turned our plants to coal

o, how we wanted to help you, sister
perhaps it was our wanting that failed you

we tried so hard to extinguish the fire
we never asked what you saw in the flames

at night while we slept
you howled in our dreams

and in the mornings
there was ash on our pillows

our great enchantresses tried
their most potent rituals to heal you

they crumbled to dust, consumed
by the conflagration inside you

you burned and you burned
and would not stop

and with every day passing
there was less of you

and now, all these moons later
your bones are still burning

and i am here to try
once again to save you

my hand inside your rib cage
my ear pressed to your skull

as my flesh starts to smolder
and my hair goes up in smoke

whispering the magic question
how do you save a burning woman?

and as my skin is set ablaze
as my body begins to scream

i can finally hear your answer
echoing deep inside your bones:

you must embrace the flames within yourself
without fear of being burnt

you must not try to heal her

because you fear the sound of her pain

you must remember, she chose the fire

so that she might know love


Author’s Bio

Kai Cheng Thom is a writer, performer, and community educator based in Toronto. She is the author of four award-winning books, including the essay collection I HOPE WE CHOOSE LOVE, a Stonewall Honour Award recipient, and the poetry collection a place called No Homeland.