Two Martyrs, by Alan Felsenthal

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By Alan Felsenthal, from the December 2015 issue of  The Brooklyn Rail. Felsenthal cofounded The Song Cave, a small press. His first collection of poems is forthcoming from Ugly Duckling Presse in 2017.

Two martyrs stalked the earth
almsgiving equally
so neither knew the other
was capable of competition
until the first martyr sacrificed
his life before the township
by jumping into a fire pit.
Some said the second martyr
inspired by his friend’s decision
faced the pit and lit himself on fire.
After the first martyr saw this act
he was immediately resurrected
only to end his life once more
by lighting his body on fire
then jumping from the tower.
The town gasped as suddenly
the second martyr reappeared below
afire and shaking the tower until
its shattered stones covered him.
This cycle of sacrifice went on
for so long the two turned
into an attraction for travelers.
Soon they were not considered
to be martyrs anymore
but brothers whose punishment
for misusing fire
was to continue misusing it.

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