I am getting married later this year and my fiancé decided to have a tattoo done on his chest to symbolise the rebirth of his life.
During the afternoon he was having it done, I decided to write a poem for him about the tattoo, however, I found that I couldn’t convey what I wanted to say in a poem, so I expanded it into a piece of prose.
The taper glowed, a jutting extension of my trembling fingers. In the darkness of the room, I could just make out the pile of musty wood piled high in the grate. The derelict cottage had damp walls and rotten floorboards obscured from my view but their pungent mildew was ever-present in my nostrils.
I knelt down in the dust and held the taper to the base of the wooden pyramid of twigs and small branches. The first stirrings of smoke curled its way forwards and upwards, the fragrant smell of burning twigs overlaid the dankness, bringing a forgotten pleasure to my senses. As the flames rapidly spread through the dry, snapping twigs, my face was bathed in light and heat like a welcoming embrace. I felt my eyes widen and my heartbeat quicken in sensual anticipation of what was to happen.
This moment has been long awaited for many years. The journey has been painful, I bear many scars, both physical and mental, gained during my quest for enlightenment. But now that I have finally found my true self and know my purpose, I can cleanse my soul and start anew. Move forward without a backward glance and be rid of the burdens that have stifled me all my life, enabling me to cast off the chains of resentment and hatred and move forward into the light.
I am mesmerised by the fluidity of the building flames, red, orange, yellow, flashing and leaping with an intense life force all of their own. I sit back on my haunches and watch silently, with eyes as big as saucers. The moment has arrived.
As the smaller twigs turn to ashes, the larger branches catch, flames snake around the bark as it peels back and withers. The fire is taking hold now, flaring ever higher. Then it starts.
I catch my breath as the golden beak appears, opening and closing as if gasping for air, it pushes upwards, through the top of the pyramid which falls away, blood-red embers scattering around the base. Then the head appears, like molten lava taking shape as it points upwards, its orange plumes glowing, yet wet with a sheen like a bird hatching from an egg. It turns its head to my left, its eye open like a small black coal. It stares at me unblinking as it thrusts its neck higher until the top of one folded wing appears, rising up through the flames.
I watch with bated breath, not daring to move or even blink as the mythical bird releases both wings, opening them majestically, the plumage flashing red and gold, dripping ashes into the fire below. Then the rest of the body appears, as if levitating. Holding its outstretched wings motionless, the bird slowly ascends, with tightly clenched talons, borne on the rising heat and curling smoke. It hovers above the fire for a few moments, exalting in its own magnificence. Then, in slow-motion, it begins to gently flap its wings and turns its head to look at me knowingly, as if mirroring my own rebirth.
Its face is fierce and determined as the beating of its wings quicken and it suddenly shoots forward, hitting my body with such a force that its image is forever branded onto my chest. It raises its head and looks deeply into my eyes before painfully wrenching itself free from my scalded skin and disappearing up the chimney in search of its own freedom, leaving a shower of sparks and embers in its wake.
Written by: Susan Tompkins
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