The Colour of Fire – Part 1

Like many, I first learned of Jonestown and Peoples Temple after hearing the 45-minute portion of the devastating events that unfolded on November 18th, 1978 immortalized on Tape Q 042, otherwise known as the “death tape.” After some research, I listened again, focusing in for every second, trying to put myself into the shoes of not just the Temple members themselves, but into those of Jim Jones, too. A voice, of whom I later found to be Christine Miller, seemed to be the only honestly reluctant person in the tape.

This triggered a long standing fascination: how could these people be so passionately united in such an irrational and unreasonable mindset put to them by clearly a very tired, delusional and frantic man? But these initial thoughts came from the slightly more ignorant side of me, as I would soon discover as I delved further into the story. It became clear to me that the majority of the people who died that day weren’t seeking death, but – in complete contrast – simply a good standard of life, one of equality, freedom and free of oppression in an era where all of this still seemed so far away. One thing that rang true in every voice I heard: they had all turned to Jim Jones seeking a leader, but instead found a very complex, troubled and destructive man.

It’s this tape which became the basis for my first poem, “The Colour of Fire.” It speaks from the perspective of Jim Jones, as he prepares to lead his people into death. But then a woman named Allain protests – her pleas are in bold – that, even as she is willing to die for Jim Jones, she also thinks there is a reason to live.

The Colour of Fire – Part 1

I will paint the walls with fire
In the wooden slumber shack I once called home
Embrace the desire to take the streets,
and gather each pair of eyes I no longer know
and see into them like the beauty of my love
whose eyes are a tool
which she lends generously to the world with every glance
And together we’ll paint the streets the colour of fire
like the pitiful pits of hell, yellow, orange and red
The children snatched from their beds
and together their skin will burn

War helmets and war guns
land on our heads and into our arms
And together we march into battle
But the guns shall not face outwards, but inward
Like our children our bodies shall burn by our fingertips
as the taste of poison touches our lips
And our spirits and our souls will raise up
and together we’ll board the ship of eternity
that’s hidden behind the emerging sun
Our time has come
For what’s done is done
and what’s dead is dead

So mothers of mothers
and children of children
calm each other as I paint you with flames
The beautiful colour of an apocalyptic sky
because you will never know a more honourable feat
For all we shall do, is step into another plane

You will never know love,
like the way my heart beats for you now
And you will never feel such soft loving lips
As are mine, rested against your head
like a mother with her child at her breast

We’ve been betrayed, so horribly betrayed
By our own brothers that wish to stay
On the streets, bitter and blue
a contrast to the bright sky of the day

So lay down the lifeless bodies of our fallen brothers and sisters
And dip your glasses into the pool of punch
and let’s raise a toast to the waves
that are soon to wash them away

Together we lived
and together we’ll die
together we’ll be born
into another life, Amen

As your fair father, I hear your cries
So now it’s time for your voices to be heard
to speak out upon this beautiful day,
Child, what is your name?

It’s Allain.
I will follow you out into the field of flames
and embrace your words as the word and will of god
for we are all aboard a sinking ship
in the vast ocean, gasping for our last breath
But as my veins turn black,
And I feel the strengh of the sea
I know I can still swim
as my arm reaches up to the head of the waves,
I know I can still breath

Your will is to live?

My will is to survive!

Then lay down with your protests and die,
for this is the only way for you to survive
In our world plagued with lies

I am a soldier for no man, but the creator
so before I tap your glass and resist my final breath
and let my fingers fall through the tide
I will speak for the last time,
For in your tired eyes
I see only the hands of god

I see the vomit of our pale faced children
and the vacant stare of the mothers, who’s turn is soon to come
and the thoughts in my head only think of sadness
They look to you for hope and hope that is promised
as a child looks through the window on a rainy day
hoping that soon he’ll see the sun
My only fear is that today, the rain will pass
and today the sun will be seen
Only to blind us, as the poison that runs through my veins
has blinded me now
I no longer see your face, and I no longer see god
My senses are weakening
and I only smell the smoke in the sky
A result of you, an artist of fire
My hands are shaking
As the white pours from my mouth
I collapse into your arms and ask only this:
When will your glass be raised?

(Robin S. Boyd is a writer and film director from the UK. He can be reached at