The Barn Burner (1st Place Winner of IDEAS Poetry Contest) By:Nicole Steinbaugh

We are going to walk in circles,
the rings of
you didn’t call,
you don’t want to talk,
I will never see you again,
the jagged jumping-to-conclusions,
the five hour act
unconcerned. It is an art. It is
What Happens when we’ve been
abandoned, when someone else
has already burned the barn and killed
the cattle. In an hour
there will be a voice
on the line asking for matches,
and I will bubble so at the crackling
of static. The men will come,
too late, with hoses. But this time,
I won’t watch it collapse.


We remember
our barns, the sleek
mares whinnying in the night.
Sometimes the chickens would peck
our hands to bleeding. Sometimes
a song would drift down
from the neighboring farm, the fiddles
and drums of those who know how to keep
the foxes away. I like to think
I could not have done better. I like
to think I was an exception, but sound carries
through eternity here, and I
can hear the screams of other farmwives
cutting through the darkness.
At 8 pm I receive the call.
You ask about my day, no matches
involved. I wonder, the tiny book
in my hand, trailing
kerosene through the courtyard
to the stables. I wonder
if it is not that we fall in love
with arsonists, but that
we are made of things
that easily burn. We
kindle the ruin of all
we hold dear.

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