The Yangtze River

by Erin O’Malley

My sister’s body isn’t where she left
            it—gunfire      shredding the belly      of the city,
            the streets bayoneted red.      The scent of meat staling
on her breath. Men born
the year of every wild
animal, which is to say: men
who are men but half-
            starved. Her legs locked      in fear
            like ammunition      paralyzed before
the pull of a trigger. The gun’s      muzzle, a beast      the shots
and the air      around their noise fled from.
How a bullet leaves its barrel
            to enter      someone else—I      confess:
            I was      afraid
of everything, even
what couldn’t hurt me
anymore. My sister had no last words,
only sounds. I heard
            them come out of my mouth only once
            before I buried them
under the water.

Erin Jin Mei O’Malley lives in Philadelphia. Their work appears or is forthcoming in The Shade Journal, Wildness, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Cosmonauts Avenue, and others. They have received a scholarship from the Lambda Literary Foundation and nominations for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. You can find them at