The archivist in us shudders at such cold-
blooded destruction of the word, but since
we're only human, we commit our sins
to the flames. Sauve qui peut: fear makes us bold.
Tanka was bolder: when the weather turned
from fair to frigid, he saw his way clear
to build a sacrificial fire
in which a priceless temple Buddha burned.
(The pretext? Simple: what he sought
was legendary Essence in the ask.
But if it shows up only in the flesh - ?
He grinned and said, Let's burn the lot!)
Believers in the afterlife perform
this purifying rite. At last
a match is struck: it's done. The past
will shed some light, but never keep us warm.
Daniel Hall 1990
**close-read coming soon!**