What we burnt returns in ashes
crossed above their eyes, grey dust
to mask their resemblance to korai.
For now, they wear ashes.
What we burnt was left over
from triumph, from beneath the hooves
at the end of a long run. No colt: a donkey.
We rub ashes away with spit and friction skin.
A promise; tell it slant.
We are asked to choose
what we will lose this time.
We will be able to take it back when they are done.
What would a woman choose to lose?
Something already askew, listing, limp, and almost gone.
Those stale chocolates, the wine gone sour,
the lover’s calls grown distant and rare.
Go on, he tells her. Choose. He holds out
a skeleton’s hand, see-through in the light,
glowing red under the stretched skin.
If she begins to burn, we will all go up in flames.
If one deserves burning,
is another worth saving,
and how will we know?