diaspora babies

diaspora babies, we
are born of pregnant pauses/spilled
from unwanted wombs, squalling invisible-ink poems/written in the margins of a map
of a place called No Homeland
old gong gong honoured uncle is the man i won’t become/BBQ pork-scented sorrow and red bean paste buns/he sold on street corners in Chinatown, handing out sweetbread and stories/for seventy-five cents each/offering red meat and red hands stained by the winter wind’s violence/as the Goddess of Mercy watched/pitying/ from her curb-side altar
diaspora lovers, we/wrap lips around pregnant pauses/spill
salt fluids from unwanted bodies, squalling invisible-ink poetry/written in the margins
of a map of a place called No Homeland
my boy makes me breakfast the morning after/he’s the air i breathe/love-flavoured oxygen, i taste him everywhere/sun-dried orange peel candy/like the kind my father used to bring on car trips/the colour of his skin:brown, salty-sweet/we gorge ourselves on love, not thinking about tomorrow/there’s never enough time/to make you full/never enough flesh to fill your skin/we open our mouths for stories/for sun-tinted histories/swallow each other whole
diaspora secrets, we/enclose in pregnant pauses/write on the walls
of unwanted wombs/invisible-ink poems in the margins of bodies/that are a map of
No Homeland
red’s the color of my mother’s scars/as though the Goddess of Mercy went finger-painting across my mother’s face/a mask made of Things We Don’t Talk About/there some stories that are never told/but known nonetheless/we bake them into bread, fill buns with secrets like sweet lotus paste/”what can’t be cured must be endured”/”chinese families don’t talk about our feelings, we wash them down with pork”/do as you are told, child/eat what’s in your bowl/swallow it, bitter or sweet/some violence, we keep inside our bodies/scar tissue/”what love? the kind they show in hollywood films? chinese women don’t speak of love/we know that people will laugh at us”/some bodies can’t be touched/some poems cannot be written/just felt
diaspora haunted, we/hunt for pregnant pauses/give birth from unwanted wombs/bodies like invisible-ink poems/ghost babies drawing maps in the margins/of a place called No Homeland



swallowing elixirs
beneath the moon, i am
a slow-burning alchemy
in midnight’s tube.  shape-shifter, 
skin-changer, doctor’s daughter, i
am demon mother
with barren womb.  sweet nectar
puddling in my pores.  sometimes, to survive,
we must become more than alive.
more than woman, and
more than man.

the doctors
want to know
if i take hormones
because i hate my body.
it is because i love
my self.

the other night i dreamed
that there were two flowers
budding inside my chest.
like cereus, my body blossoms, 
beneath cool, 



rice in my bowl
to honor the woman who gave me life,
coconut oil in my hair,
in gratitude to the women who taught me beauty.
white lace on my skin
to remember to the woman who told me her secret,
black leather on my back
in solidarity with the women who hide their scars.
jade on my wrist,
in tribute to the women who came before,
gold on my throat,
to bless the women who are yet to come.  
ash on my eyelids,
paint on my lips,
lacquer on my nails,
prayers in my mouth.
i am the body am the altar am the temple am the flame.
i am the worshiper and the worshiped and the slain.
i am the ghost of a time that will come


Poetry: Kai Cheng Thom
Photography: Võ Thiên Việt

Kai Cheng Thom is a transgender spoken word artist, poet, playwright, and writer living in Montreal. Her writing has appeared in Matrix, ditch poetry, xoJane, Montreal Review of Books, and the anthology Where the Nights are Twice of Long: Love Letters of Canadian Poets, among other publications. She has performed in venues including Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, the Banff Centre for the Arts, and the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word.