Arsonist Song

John Wall Barger

Did we not say
there is pain every night?

To be clear, you will fall asleep
in the village every night
holding a lit match,
your soul a birthing canal 
in cold night wind. 

The lit match a blue note 
over a page. Oh man, 
it will feel good 
to drop the match. 
But the sheer power 
of holding it. 
The sheer flower 
of dropping it. It will feel 
sheer, dropping it. 
It will feel lit.
Like levitation. 

This page.

Child, wring yourself clean 
like a sock. 
That’s how I’d do it. 
Can you not see the char 
of the village? 
The char it will be? 
The faint pong 
of turpentine it will be? 

Burn the village.

And when suddenly
there is too much beauty,
burn it. And when 
a trap door in the night opens, 
fall through it.

About the Author

John Wall Barger’s poems and critical writing have appeared in American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review, The Cincinnati Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Best of the Best Canadian Poetry, and elsewhere. Barger is the author of four books of poetry: Pain-proof Men (2009); Hummingbird (2012), finalist for the Raymond Souster Award; The Book of Festus (2015), finalist for the J.M. Abraham Award; and The Mean Game (2019), finalist for The Phillip H. McMath Book Award. Barger teaches in the BFA Program for Creative Writing at The University of the Arts, in Philadelphia. (