Poetry: “Eating Fire” by Joan Kwon Glass

(TW: Suicide)

Eating Fire

At the Renaissance faire
we watched a man eat fire. 
He winked at us, cast his head back,
dropped the long stick into his open mouth.
When he closed his lips around the flame
I was struck by how efficiently his tongue 
extinguished the heat, 
how he swallowed whatever lingered
until it transformed or vanished,
nothing visibly singed. 

In the week before her death
my sister Googled Cleanest Suicide Method,
placed her jewelry in a box for us to give
to her daughter one day.
The note she left spewed pages of hatred
for every man who’d ever harmed her,
blamed them for her decision to leave us all behind.
She wrote out her passwords,
told us we’d find the dog in her laundry room. 

I want to summon the word asphyxiation,
watch its tiny bone letters rise from her death certificate 
and levitate toward me, catch fire in midair.
I would open my mouth, let each one burn.
I’d allow myself for once to be ravenous,
to bite down hard and listen as they
break and crumble in my mouth.
Remember the fire too easily extinguished
along the tongue’s long hallway,
inside the throat’s dark room, everything 
one magic trick away from disappearing.

About Joan Kwon Glass

Joan Kwon Glass is author of How to Make Pancakes For a Dead Boy (Harbor Editions, 2022) & If Rust Can Grow on the Moon (Milk & Cake Press, 2022). She was a 2021 finalist for the 2021 Harbor Review Editor’s Prize, the Subnivean Award, & the Lumiere Review Writing Contest & serves as Poet Laureate for the city of Milford, CT. She is a biracial Korean American, Smith College alum & serves as Poetry Co-Editor for West Trestle Review. Her poems have recently been published or are forthcoming in Diode, Rattle, Pirene’s Fountain, Dialogist, South Florida Poetry Journal, Kissing Dynamite, trampset, Rust & Moth, Mom Egg, SWWIM, Lantern ReviewBarnstorm & others. Since 2018, Joan has been nominated four times for the Pushcart Prize. She tweets @joanpglass & you may read her previously published work at www.joankwonglass.com