The Bonfire Chorus: A Poem by Adam O’Connor

The Bonfire Chorus: A Poem by Adam O’Connor


I was born

with a mouthful of ash

from all the books

we had not yet burned;

drifted southward

off northern steppes

with the sulphiric taste of sin,

and shame,

and a hopeless hope

landing snowflake

on fiery tongues

shouting hallelujahs;


“the son has come.”

When my father

took the clot of blood

from my hand,

he gave me a shovel and a torch

and joined the bonfire chorus

to sing blasphemous refrains:

“Follow us down

         “to the swinging trees,

      “and we can show you

          “where the saviors be.

     “And mark where

           “the tapping crow flies,

      “and he can show you

            “where your brother lies.”

So now it is time again,

and again time has come again,

the time to burn and bury–

The Mongols will ride again!

The Mongols will ride again!

and burn all the words again,

and bury the broken images again.

And the dust

shaken from history’s march

will land snowflake

on parched lips,

cracking with their smiles

and singing,



“let’s do it all again”.


Adam O’Connor.

“The Bonfire Chorus,” about O’Connor’s experiences with book burning as a child in ATI, was originally published on his poetry blog here. It is reprinted with his permission.

About Adam

Adam O’Connor’s homeschooling was, at first, sprinkled with other forms of education. Homeschooled for preschool, he then went on to attend public school for the first and second grades, private school for third, charter school for the fourth and fifth before finally returning to his homeschooling roots for the remaining years of primary education. His family joined CHEF, where he taught photography and tutored in English for his local chapter. In his sophomore year his family joined NCFCA and IBLP / ATI. He found himself a modest success at speech and debate and competed in the national tournament in his junior year. The year following his graduation he left with a small group as an ATI sponsored initiative to teach English in Yuli, a rural town in Hualien, Taiwan. It was during this year that the accumulated years of indoctrination and his otherwise ultra-conservative, hyper-religious mindset began to unravel and he soon found himself in a crisis of faith. Although it took much longer to fully realize the effects of this year, he lost his faith in Taiwan and came home unrecognized and at odds with the social circles he had spent his entire life thus far building. He spend the next year commuting to Nicholls until transferring to Louisiana Tech for nearly three more years, dropping out one quarter shy of graduation. He is now pursuing his writing, particularly poetry, and hosts the Secret Meetings of the Dinky Tao Poetry Hour, the second oldest reading in New Orleans, currently located at the Neutral Ground Coffee House. He has been seen reading at the 17 Poets at the Goldmine, the open mic at Buffa’s, and was featured at the Apple Barrel on Frenchman for the Book Fair in 2011. He is currently working on his first book of poetry, entitled “…till the moon howls back”.

8 thoughts on “The Bonfire Chorus: A Poem by Adam O’Connor

  1. Jerusha Lofland March 20, 2013 / 11:52 am

    Oh, yes, book-burning. I loved books. Seemed so awful to watch them turn into ash. I guess it reinforced the Old Testament for us. Two things could be burned: the perfect and unblemished, or the irretrievably corrupt. So sad, either way.


  2. shadowspring March 20, 2013 / 11:56 am

    Wow. Powerful. I hope you read like a mad man now that you’re an adult.


  3. Julie Anne March 21, 2013 / 10:12 am

    This is a powerful poem. Can someone enlighten me please about this book-burning connected with ATI? I am familiar with a lot of Gothard’s ridiculous ways, but not this one. Thankfully, ATI is one path my husband and I did not lead our HK (homeschool kids) down. But there was enough damage in the other ones we did choose 😦


    • nickducote March 21, 2013 / 9:52 pm

      The idea is that fire is the only way to purge demons from objects. I believe it’s an outgrowth of Jim Logan’s crazy ideas, linked into the “surrendered ground” concept. The most common item burned were “African masks.”


  4. Julie Anne March 21, 2013 / 9:55 pm

    Thanks, Nick. It looks like I’ll have to do some Google searching. I’m not familiar with Jim Logan or surrendered ground concept.


    • nickducote March 22, 2013 / 11:11 am

      Here is the book that lays out the basic ideas.

      He has lots of sermons online, too. I heard him speak at almost every ATI event we attended. He would basically tell these freaky stories of demonic possession (usually from listening to rock music or dating, etc) and scare all the adults and children. I think his ideas were the beginning for my panic attacks and anxiety. I was always afraid of demons and physical manifestations of pure evil. Ya know, great things to tell young children.


  5. Professor of Literature July 9, 2014 / 1:47 pm

    Adam, this poem is fantastic: intense, original, inspired. Keep writing.


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