Something To Be Burned by Caira Lee

Something To Be Burned


All the fagots will be dressed in drag at the ball tonight”

To fag or to be a fag

in Britain 1700

was to be weak


only useful

when performing “chores”

for men whose backbones bent like question marks


Elizabeth leans against a brick wall

with a cigarette dangling from her lips

a gentleman comes up and asks:

“Could you spare a fag?”

It once meant an ill-tempered woman

mysteriously, all things woman


into androgynous


                                 b. the frayed end of a useless piece of cloth or rope

                                 c. something that hangs loose


the term fag referred to the bundles of sticks

heretics carried on the way to feed their own consuming infernos

/fag/ a. something to be burned

Fag swam across the Atlantic Ocean

Fag arrived in America

terrified and out of breath

it was given a set of knives

to carve into its ribs


before anyone else could

“All the faggots will be dressed in drag at the ball tonight.”

– 1914, Lewis B. Jackson, (the first time the word was ever heard in the united states)

Isn’t it ironic?

how we burn people

like we burned fags

with our words

we lacerate

spewed &

the intention was to cut

the dignity right off the




being gay

/ lesbian / bisexual / transgender


is not a punch line

is not a face to be punched in


so when they laugh

like the Atlanta street gang at Eric James Borges

as his teeth plunged

onto the concrete


may the privileged of us be

on solid knees


our voice boxes sirens that never forget to sound:



Ain’t you heard? I am killing two sins with one stone


emptying my closets of their bones

so that my head & heart will be light enough to

bear the burden of being myself


A quick left hook to the jaw may also suffice


for those delightful people

who hold up signs saying



we are not just going to hell

we are flying there

on rainbow magic carpets

and when we arrive

Satan will send us back

because it’ll be too full

of hypocrites

who choose to ignore

that out of faith hope and love


is most important


So this is for my love,


who says the word

makes him feel:

                           “worse than the 10 feet of dirt

                               beneath the scum

                                   at the bottom of the pond.”  

says he wanna crawl up inside himself and die


you have to come out of the closet to



there is a whole house on the other side

and it isn’t burning


Caira is a 21-year-old performance poet from Baltimore city. After her classmates voted her “Most Likely to Change the World”, Caira became state champion for Ohio’s National Endowment for the Arts’Poetry Out Loud Contest, won spots on Cleveland’s Brave New Voices and National Poetry Slam performance poetry teams, became founder and coach of her college’s first CUPSI team and had 23 of her best poems published in a collection titled Slaying With No Dents in My Afro – all before the age of 20. In 2015, Caira became a TEDx speaker, delivering a powerful talk to a packed house on the power of absolute self-esteem.