A SMALL FIRE, by Vi Khi Nao

Vi Khi Nao is the author of the novel, Fish in Exile, and the poetry collection, The Old Philosopher. Vi’s work includes poetry, fiction, film and cross-genre collaboration. She was the winner of the 2014 Nightboat Poetry Prize and the 2016 Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Contest.


Infinity drifts out of your soul
Like snow while
You are sitting in front of a fire
Trying to blow out the
Wind in your chest

A small fire which leaves
Tears running out of my body
Rain runs after pavement, you say

The meters of the night
Drill holes into
My spleen, says the earth

What if love is not
Petrified wood
of yesterday?

Would you marry the day
With the Night?


How often we sacrifice
our dormant will for the sake
Of beauty when beauty
wasn’t worth it & neither is sexiness?

How often we borrow the
Bone structure of our beloved & find that
It had gone off to war, to die, to sin
The forgotten breeze?

How often we refuse
To inhale yesterday’s breath
Because it has a stain
The color of ennui?

How often we climb into time’s
Broken lap to discover
Skin + bone have dissolved
Into a flask of vinegar + baking soda?

How often the shadow evokes
Shame when the wolves inside
All of us wish to find restraint
From our teeth?

How often we choose our foes
Over our friends because we
Sincerely believe that being
Slapped is significantly more
Superior than being kissed?

How often we turn our shoulders
Away from what is empty to watch
Later in disbelief at
The overflowing phantom
Breasts of our regrets?

How often the night washes
Our hair with the black oil of
The moon’s pale engine of light?


When the bus drives home the
            sun is swimming behind
                        the trees

I missed the bus while trying
            To text

Even the earth knows
            It can’t clothe itself
            On pure ecstasy

Even yesterday Autumn forgets
            Her own childbirth

My entire wardrobe is made
            Out of sin

Even God knows it’s hard to
            Give birth to
            Baby manic depression

It’s hard to distinguish
            What lives behind you
            +What lives inside of you

Yesterday the trees have
            Been tortured
            By a gang of wet clouds

And the snowbank dreams
            Of flattening the

Photo credit: Stephen Olsen