Fire on set

Claire Champommier

The smoke cleared my senses –
I’d been feeling far from belonging.

At first glance, I saw red. Then, a reminder of home.

The wind swept fires up to Oregon

just to let me know that even if I leave

I’ll still have to endure the afterglow

of perfect, golden,

god-complex California

suffocating me. I drove

back to a burning state,

where people refer to home as a tinderbox.
San Quentin Prison sits like a cookie tin across the water

from our neighborhood of tennis skirt moms who
don’t even play. We put out fires with prisoners – the ones left over,

we put back in a box. Us kids would walk to the bus stop and wonder

about the next new family who lost

their Sonoma home. Growing up barely

making the bus, I wound up running down

the hill for that orange light

wondering if the sun was coming up

or if another house just got its face melted off.
In the back seat, I projected made-up movies onto smoke,

pretended it wasn’t hurting. It was just part of home.
Just a color on the wall. Like the rumors that my high school was public

and designed by the same person who designed San Quentin Prison,

it was a lie we all agreed was true enough.

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Claire “Champagne” Champommier owes $5.20 to her local library. She is a proud LGBTQ Asian American creative and activist. Currently a student, she has studied writing at Lewis & Clark College, where her professor, Mary Szybist, has encouraged her to keep doing so. Her work has appeared in Otis Nebula, Fleas on the Dog, SPLASH! from Haunted Waters Press, and is forthcoming in Auroras & Blossoms. She is the San Franciscan winner of smART Magazine’s 2021 poetry contest. She plans to keep writing and is sending hugs to her friends and family from her room in Portland, Oregon.