Original poems by Kai Cheng Thom

Part of Special Issue #2 – Bodies as Archives: QTBIPOC Art and Performance in Toronto

Author: Kai Cheng Thom

Photo credit: Sam Lu. Courtesy of the author.
Photo credit: Sam Lu. image Courtesy of the artist.



Content Note:
This work contains descriptions of physical and emotional violence.


my boyfriend plays white guy music
your body kept the score
what the queer community should have told us



my boyfriend plays white guy music

in the mornings when we wake up.

bearded hipsters crooning over soft guitar

                           weird electronic stuff and

punk dudes whooping anarchist tirades 

in the barest semblance            of a tune.

and he sings along       badly

with the biggest sneaky grin under those

                 green white boy eyes

like he knows that i low-key hate it

          so i  wrap my arms and legs

around his smooth naked        white boy body

and wrestle till i’ve got him pinned

             and pummel him with kisses till

he laughingly begs

                                  for mercy.

   the dawn light slivers through his 

              shitty college student bedroom curtains

                   turning his skin pale blue, and he smiles

and says he loves me.

       and shit fuck goddamn

                         ostie calisse tabernak 

                                       yauh mou gaau lan choh ah

              i say it back.  

 and it doesn’t hurt me                it doesn’t hurt

                               like the last boy’s hand

       squeezing the bones in my wrist till they cracked

                       or listening to him howling, wolflike in the middle of the night

            or breathing in his booze-soaked breath waiting

for him to cry himself to sleep.        it doesn’t hurt 

like the boy who told me he couldn’t sleep 

 without dreaming about me and sent    over fifty text messages

in one hour at 2am and then ghosted         without a word

            it doesn’t hurt 

                              like all the boys with asian or tranny fetishes

       sneering at my body while they came inside it

                                       doesn’t hurt

like them tearing the soft tissues of my inner body 

          (in the places where i still bleed) while i 

didn’t say a word because i was programmed

to want to let them rape me, oh

                       it doesn’t hurt me to love him /or to write this poem

and i know that makes me a bad


and you know        i just can’t give a fuck.    

                            what if        i don’t love this white boy

cuz of internalized transmisogyny or white thirst or

any of that social justice kool-aid i drank up in college

               what if?

i don’t love this white boy cuz i’m weak or cuz he’s white

                               what if  i love him cuz he’s sweet

     and dorky      and kind enough to notice the look

               in my eyes, and say 

                         i’m going to stop because i think that

i’m hurting you.

              what if i love him cuz my love is strong

                             strong enough to have survived


 that this world puts girls like us through 

          strong enough to survive 

being raped and used and disposed of

      strong enough to last through the lean scarred times

the violence   the poison

                      the psychological manipulation 

                                            the abandonment

                                                  my own foolishness

strong enough to fight back

       to walk away 

                   to leave him behind

                            strong enough to know    

               that this time                   

                                       i don’t have to


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your body kept the score


and so you lie here on this tiny island in its sea

of slime, leaking

      unprocessed trauma memories

                                                                    and shards of poetry

that hurt as they cut through your skin

  faces float            in the iridescent waves, whispering

                      stories in a language

your brain is too burnt to remember

is there an opposite of the word disabled?  oh yeah,


                                                        that’s how you always

thought of yourself       possessed

             of incredible, endless strength.  wonder girl, class assassin

capable of leaping      over systemic barriers in a single bound

                        like your mother, the Invincible Woman with

a heart and skin   of steel       who conquered medical school

             as an asian mother with two young children and

                                                              a broken back

white rich kids get to stay home sick       not you  she said once

                 as she straightened your wings      and sent you to school

                                                now fly, my pretty       fly


and soar you did

                                  like so many femmes of colour before

                  got the degrees, wrote the books

                          mediated conflicts, went to the protests

  and six hour organizing meetings where white people screamed at you

              for using unfeminist words

                                                cooked meals for young queers

                                                                  shrugged off all those times

                                          a professor sexually harassed you      the ten to twelve

                 hour workdays you didn’t get paid for               supported your friends

                                        and also some strangers through mental health crises

                       sent the care packages, went to the parties

                                                      had painful anal sex with your  

depressed drunken boyfriend               and held him while he screamed and cried

                                                       and punched the walls of his apartment

in the middle of the night

                            and your feelings went dead

                (and oh yeah, you also changed your gender, on the side)

you thought really were the femme activist transsexual witch healer goddess

you wanted to see in the world

                                                (hey, no big deal,  it’s not like you were the only femme doing it)

and now, super girl?  

                            your body fails you    so does your brain

        now you have to actually choose between      making food

                                                            and answering     the sixth or is it seventh

                    suicide support call this week     (lez be honest, you take

the support call every time   every time)      you cry without quite

feeling sad    

      mangled nervous system constantly firing electrochemical signals at random

a lightning storm through the heart and spine

                             stop go stop go go STOP STOP STOP

                                you are tired

and dehydrated


the time  

                      but then, maybe you were always this busted

  and just didn’t notice         could it be that

                                       the amount of shit you did

 was never an accurate measure of          how unbroken you were

        once, a queer femme poet auntie told you

here’s some advice         don’t wait til you’re bleeding out

              of your ass like me     to take a damn break

                    and   you laughed because     you’d been shitting red

        for years

                                    O you fucked up worn out run down prophetess

                                        you washed up dried out ground down mermaid

goddess of nothing

bodhisattva of trash

                     are you done yet                 trying to make people admire you?

        look at your body  

                                    the one that is so weak you hate it

                                                                        it is   the only one you have

                  all those years you spent learning

to be the Warrior Girl

                       the Healer Girl

                          the Hunter Girl

                            the Hurtful Girl

                             the Priestess Girl

                               the Poet Girl

                         the Singer Girl

                     the Sister Girl

               the Survivor Girl

                                                   this body is the Sick Girl

                               a self you have not yet learned how to love

                 because she refuses to disappear, to stop    speaking her needs

to demand rest, and respite, and attention, and tenderness

                 you do not know how to love her and so

                              you have banished her to this tiny island

                   this sea of memories and slime       the wreckage

 of fast food wrappers, unwashed sheets                your crumpled wings

       you do not know how to love her and yet

                 she loves you still                  this fucked up body of yours

unconcerned with accomplishments or

                                                   the adulation of others or even

the long term survival game

 she knows how to lie here                  just grateful

                          for the divine gift of breathing  

              naked in the arms              

of an illness you do not know

                                                  how to name


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what the queer community should have told us

1. you are perfect

& also flawed

2. you are allowed to make mistakes

& you must be accountable for them

3. accountability is not a price you pay in blood

for being human

4. justice is not violence

5. integrity & blind obedience

are not the same thing

6. no one’s truth is more important than yours

& your truth is no more important 

than anyone else’s

7. just because someone is famous

does not mean that they are honest

8. your worth cannot be measured

by the number of your scars

9. you are worth saving

& you are worth holding

& you are worth teaching

& you are worth more than political theory

& you are not disposable

& you will not be thrown away

10. your body is not weapon

11. your words are not a curse

12. your intentions do matter

& so do your actions

13. we cannot live without each other

& you belong only to yourself

14. you never owe it to anyone

to hurt or degrade yourself

15. you are allowed to be angry

but you are not allowed to be cruel

16. you are not a political experiment, or symbol, or token, or tool

17. you are precious

18. you are whole

19. you are essential

20. you are a gift

21. you are loved

22. you are loved

23. you are loved

24. you are loved

25. you are loved

26. you are loved

27. you are loved

28. you are loved

29. you are loved

30. you are loved

31. you are loved

32. you are loved

33. you are loved


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