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 ash.
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.