​One Hundred Candle Bonfire


By Zoe Duhaime

We set the table ourselves
let the dough rise for 99 years
for good measure

we polished the silverware ourselves
argued with the men until it tarnished
polished it again
picked our teeth in the reflection of a butterknife

We strung up the ribbons ourselves
raised the chickens
aged the wine
grew the lettuce until it was a forest
there is a whole country to feed with this party
we are always trying to be better,
and self-work is best done after a good meal and company

you are cordially invited
to celebrate women with a vote

It has been 100 years since some women have had the vote
there are so many candles in this cake that it looks like a bonfire
and women have always known how to dance around a good flame
a good hearth
the vote hasn't solved all
but it's a measure of worth
it's a voice
it's a light
it's the breathing embers of the feminist fight
that whimpers "I will burn whenever you need me to,"
and it will
in a dish in the centre of the table
5 000 kilometers long

a dish of embers
breathing deeply to birthday songs
happy seventy-first anniversary, since the second world war reinfranchised Indigenous,
Japanese veterans and votes
happy sixty-eighth anniversary since the Hutterite and Mennonite vote
happy sixty-seventh anniversary since the Chinese and Indian vote
happy sixty-fourth anniversary since the Doukhobor
thirty-one years since you haven't had to be a British Subject
twenty-eight since you can vote on probation or parole
twelve years since you can vote in prison
you might not know this, but many of the women who fought for your right to vote were arrested for it.
You might not know this, but the table set with cake has once been the back of others. So we eat mindfully.
And we celebrate forwards.

and when you come to the table
that we have set ourselves
to eat at the dinner that we have raised ourselves
to sing to the cake we baked ourselves
blazing high like a parade
you are invited to say the prayer:
what a feast
what a pause
to have come so far
and rest
before we always
go on