The Phoenix Temple

Did the young monk guess
the fate to come
for this beautiful gilded bird,
the hordes who would trudge and sweat
through the stifling Kyoto heat
to stand and gawk and smile,
take their pictures and leave?
Because that’s what you do
in the presence of such awful beauty,
seen now
as a strange and precious animal is seen
behind the tawdry bars
of its menagerie
in an occidental zoo.
Perhaps the young monk knew
and decided to give the gorgeous firebird
one last rebirth in the licking flames.
How beautiful she was that night
as her gold became
heat, sparks, constellations
under the charred sky.
That vision,
the marauding tour guides
and their flocks
will never know.