Monday, August 06, 2007

The Phoenix and the Mirror

The Phoenix and the Mirror, by Avram Davidson, is one of the best fantasy novels ever written. Bar none.

If you haven't read it, you need to go out and get it BEFORE you read this poem. If you've read it and loved it, I hope you enjoy this. If you've read it and didn't like it, don't bother.


A house of stone. A roof of slate,
a heart that chooses not to burn.
A suitor who must stand and wait,
a soul forgetting how to yearn.
The Phoenix craves both fire and mate,
she fears the day of his return.

She’d promised to be his in turn
for magic gifts. The balance-slate
remains unequal. Royal mate:
Red King takes Queen and both must burn.
For consummation, Phoenix yearns,
these many years she’s made him wait

and let her daughter bear the weight
of obligations unreturned
of gifts much used, but still unearned.
A giant’s courtyard, paved with slate
and ringed with fires that never burned
to ash, imprisoned her. Checkmate

or only check? Some monstrous mate
was guardian. Magician, wait:
unlike the Queen, you choose to burn
but must do nothing out of turn.
There’s hidden balance on the slate.
You’ll claim the girl for whom you yearn

by trial and peril, dearly earned
and so your love is consummate.
But nothing can wipe clean the slate.
Your enemy is he who waits
and you must face him in your turn.
Then Tyre will quench Phoenician burn

but still the debtor Queen will burn
and Phoenix have the end he yearns
for on the day of his return.
He comes to claim his fearful mate
and fire is hotter when it waits
and oaths forsworn will shatter slate.

Done with yearning stalemate.
Done with waiting for his turn.
Phoenix burning cleans the slate.

8 comments:

tumblewords said...

Oh, I really messed up. I haven't read the book but I read your poem and admired its bit of plot. It's delightful. Phoenix has always fascinated me. I'll be looking for the book.

Greyscale Territory said...

Your post was a great stirrer of the memory dust. If someone had asked me what the novel was about, I would have stumbled. (Often, I may forget the details, but I do remmeber the feelings at the time! In this case, I agree with your response!) But your posting reminded me vividly.

Just gorgeous!

Gemma

Stan Ski said...

All's fair in love and war?
Happy endings never guaranteed.

Beloved Dreamer said...

Wonderful poem. I felt as if I were in the midst of a dream. Yes the Phoenix will rise from the ashes and always have his way. Powerful work.
I have ordered the book and will read it.

-bd

Linda Jacobs said...

Even though I haven't read the book, I enjoyed your poem just for its poetics! Wonderful job of using the same two sounds all the way through!

Linda Jacobs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SweetTalkingGuy said...

I love the 'voice' in this poem - I can hear something here, it has a heartbeat!

anthonynorth said...

Well it would have to be a good book to live up to THAT poem.