The Yangtze River

by Erin Jin Mei 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