Ex-Forest Service Worker Must Pay $14.7M

by Jesseca Cornelson

Barton, who was patrolling the forest during a season of high fire danger, pleaded guilty to federal arson charges. She said the fire began after she tried to burn letters from her estranged husband. –Associated Press, May 6, 2004

These trees as my witness, this earth,
I want your name to burn like my skin
in our bed, tender without you in it.
Madden the sky with smoke. Stain it all up.

You are soot to me, the way you keep rising,
burning my eyes with the sight of you.
I can’t close them without your ember image
glowing through. Take these trees,

whole gaping mountains full. Take these
other people’s houses. Take everything
that can burn: nests, pine needles, shingles,
closets full of paid bills, and books of pictures

of other people’s precious damn memories.
If it can burn, it can be loved—and if it’s more
than my life can pay, it ain’t a fraction
of the blaze you set in me before walking away.

Jesseca Cornelson is a native of Alabama’s Gulf Coast and holds an MFA in poetry from the Ohio State University. Currently, she’s a doctoral student at the University of Cincinnati. Her poems and reviews have appeared in The Other Journal, Caveat Lector, Mid-American Review, The Ohioana Quarterly, The Pedestal Magazine, and the Columbus Dispatch. She is currently researching material for her dissertation—a collection of poems based on Alabama history. Her drink of choice is bourbon and diet.

Editor’s note: “Ex-Forest Service Worker Must Pay $14.7M” is reprinted here. It first appeared in The Pedestal Magazine.

Back to Issue Three: Spring 2009