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IR ONLINE POETRY: “Fourth Degree Burn, Third Degree Arson” by Erin Jin Mei O’Malley

I did it. I committed a felony
against an empty barn

and all the sweet oxygen
inside of it, made a pyre of the stable

and retired the silo to ash
like an old American flag. I’ve always loved

the smell of hay, newspapers, anything
with the potential to be doused in an erasure

wept by gasoline and a cigarette lighter.
All I’m guilty of is my romance

with the blood-red head of a match.
How thirst is addicted to water, to love

what will always leave you
empty-handed. But what do I know

about love? I have two hands
but only one body with no one

beside me, and there are four types of arson
and just two kinds of people:

those who burn
and those who burn.

I brand everything I touch
with the smell of burning,

and I touch myself until my hands
relapse as smoke signals.


Erin Jin Mei O’Malley lives in New York. Her work appears or is forthcoming in DIALOGIST, Rust + Moth, Cosmonauts Avenue, and others. She has received a scholarship from the Lambda Literary Foundation and nominations for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. You can find her at