The arsonist by James Roome

Two days before the festival, the arsonist

placed all of his equipment in a neat row on

the windowsill. There was his lighter fluid, his

box of matches, his balaclava and his fire

proof gloves. He sat back on the bed and

admired his tools, then rose and stood straight

as a column, arms clenched to his sides, tilted

his head to the left and closed his eyes. In this

way, he became the bottle of lighter fluid.

Next, he sliced up his gloves with some

kitchen scissors, found a needle and thread,

and sewed the fire proof material to the skin of

his hands. In this way, he became the gloves.

Feeling emboldened by his success, he raised

the scissors to his mouth and cut off his lips,

then used his thumbs to gouge out both his

eyes. In this way he became the balaclava.

Finally, he ran outside into the road and

rubbed his head against the tarmac until his

scalp hung from his skull. A bloody mess. In

this way he became the match. Hot pearls

burned his cheeks and filled up the eyeholes

of his balaclava. The fire proof skin of his

hands became saturated with blood. His neck

seized in a constant tilt, pouring its fluid onto

the ground. His head hung open to the

steaming air. Only now was he ready for the

festival. And all of this had only taken half an

hour.


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James Roome works as an English teacher in Manchester, UK. His work has appeared in Magma, Tears in the Fence, and recently placed second in the University of Hertfordshire single poem prize. His first chapbook, Bull, is out now from The Red Ceilings Press and was a Poetry Book Society pamphlet selection for summer 2019 .