We used to paint our foreheads
with soot gathered from overturned logs.
He made me believe in rubbing dirt
into our brown skin,
that it could make us darker, holier.
There was no need for night, half-moon bites
shadowed my collarbone.
My mother once called me a pyromaniac
for running twigs through the fire and waving them
in the air to catch oxygen. For staring too long at the smoke
without blinking. She never once said anything
about the way I used to look at the boy
who seared his name along my spine.
I have not forgiven myself for the unused
fire extinguisher in my closet.
No one ever told me to
tend to the fire. The blaze told me
to grow wild with him, and oh god, I did.
The burn under my left thigh is still tender
as if the raw flame still licks the skin.
His hands remind me of the way I shrieked
when I touched the handle of an iron poker
and felt the scorch
of metal branding my palm.
By Erin Jin Mei O’Malley
Erin Jin Mei O’Malley is currently studying in Germany as a Speedwell Scholar. She has previously served as a Genre Editor for Polyphony H.S. and is the Co-Founder of Sooth Swarm Journal. Erin has attended workshops run by the University of Virginia and the Kenyon Review. Her work been recognized by Hollins University, Columbia College Chicago, the National YoungArts Foundation, the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and others.