The Book of the Phoenix, 1: 1-40: The Prophet Fed by a Raven
In my last post I engaged in a conversation with Marly Youmans that continued into the comment box. Replying to what she’d said about the post, I confessed to just how much I love The Book of the Phoenix, 1: 1-40: The Prophet Fed by a Raven, written for her chapter in the monograph about my work published by Lund Humphries in 2011. That made me think about where it might be read by Artloggers, given that I don’t think it’s seen the light of day anywhere save in the pages of the monograph. So here, for those of you who don’t have a copy of that and haven’t therefore read Marly’s response to my painting of The Prophet Fed by a Raven, is her beautiful poem.
1 Behold! I am the raven who is phoenix, 2 The reusrrection bird, 3 And I will feed you like a mother, 4 I who am also the resurrection man, 5 Who brings wine in a cup and bread – 6 The bread and red wine of my body I give you, 7 And the cup of wine that will become yours, 8 The fifth cup saved for Elijah at Passover seder. 9 Would you sit reflective in red and blue,
10 An icon claiming heaven’s colours?
11 Not for you is the songbird settled in a nest:
12 For you is the slow burn and the car of fire.
13 Would you dally here with the bread
14 And the wine, elements of me?
15 Eat and drink; go
16 Into the rough elements of wilderness –
17 Go! Thrust yourself
18 Into the world where the children of Israel
19 Crouch before fireless Baalzebub.
20 Don’t linger on this stage-set of a window 21 Where a painter might lay out the mug 22 – With dots that might be sheep or clouds –
23 Next to a carved pelican or nautilus shell
24 Or a girl balancing the candle’s flame on her head –
25 No, no comfort’s for you, Baal-battler, fire-bringer,
26 Actor on hardest boards, foe of Ahab and Jezebel!
27 See that backdrop of uptilted green
28 With the sprinkling of cloud-fleece above,
29 With the scattered sheep of a flock? My flock!
30 They do not know what to make of you,
31 Orphan of the wilderness, nestless Elijah –
32 They wonder and name you no mortal man
33 But an angel green and wick with life:
34 So green you crackle in the fire of me.
35 Three things I promise you:
36 When I lend you my phoenix fire,
37 You shall drag a man out of Death.
38 Your words shall burn down centuries.
39 You shall, at the close, go up in flame.
Marly Youmans. 2011