They stand beside each other on the beach–
fire exploding from the collection of disaster
piled before them on the black sand.
In the distance, across the water,
there is evidence of people living lives–
Through a screen obscured by smoke
it's impossible to tell how these people
are so free, or what makes them smile,
or what makes them
people at all .
The heat from the flames slaps against their skin,
threatening to melt them away with every breeze.
They dig their toes into the earth to remember:
I am still here.
For now, I am still alive.
In this moment, good or bad, I still exist.
One shorter, one taller–
both with brown locks and orange reflecting
off their hazel hues, offering its own life metaphor.
They have the same nose, the same eyebrows-
the same tired soul that's barely recognizable.
The girl slips her hand inside the palm of the woman;
it's the only place she feels at home,
the only place she fully belongs.
The woman gently squeezes the tiny bones–
I've got us.
The burning before them is unpredictable
and they can't leave it to rage alone.
They must stay, together, until the inferno
collapses to the ground,
or consumes them entirely.
There are only two paths forward:
to perish as if they were never there,
or to be worthy of the lives existing
across the water.
So they wait–
in the heat,
in the smoke,
in the presence of everything their life has been
to this point,
to see which way fate will go.