Self-Portrait as an Inferno by Jane Burn

I saw the birthing of a crazy phoenix – saw it raise hackles of fire,

span its bright wings of pain, sear the night with a flock of sparks.


It made a spear of embers and flew its pyre into the night –

crackled with vicious feathers, spat its language of waste


from a vivid, orange tongue. I looked square in its red-cleft beak,

saw a gizzard drunk with boiling doom, saw it arm the flue


of its shocking neck with bellyfuls of apocalypse. This blistered bird

pegged its talons to my boneless cheeks and infiltrated every breath


with filth. I’ve had uglier meat than you fed down my scalded throat,

I crowed and beat my voice against the smouldered void.


My pupils rolled wide as dark wheels – I wore the shape of flames

upon my eyes, doused greedy tinder beneath each blink, met its furnace


and found that I was not afraid. I’ve been through worse, I hissed

into its scorching ear, watered vessels full and bore it a cure


of moon-reflected pools to quench its rage, wore its shroud

of vengeful smoke like my own defiant coat. I cursed it in its own


kindled speech. Grew hooded with dust, tasted reeking night

and lapped the dry well of my parchment mouth, looked toward


my aftermath of filthy hair and frowned the colour of fumes.

I saw the grimy mark of evil flight upon my skin, was alive though


the night had flickered with angels, made a soiled font of my face.

I was an echo of waste, built from tomorrow’s cold remains.


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Jane Burn

Jane Burn’s poems and stories have been published in a wide variety of magazines and anthologies. She has been placed in many poetry competitions and has been nominated for the Forward and Pushcart Prize. Her latest poetry collection, Yan, Tan, Tether is available from Indigo Dreams. She is an associate editor at Culture Matters Press.

Twitter: @janeburn1971