To Meet a Firebird’s Eye

by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

The gaze begins in bristles. A brush dips, lifts black
droplets, and with a twist, my eye opens its coal-core.
I am born. Like a scratched match, I am fizzed into being,
given wings that burst up in a red rush, luminous. Flutter-
flame, my tail, a sherbet-orange blaze. Still, my eye remains
a coal caged in my face, an unmet gaze. I wait.

The brush runs on, constructs an ornate cage, lantern-like,
gilded and glazed. Gripped in a prince’s fist, I am
chained. Together, we drift over a forest, leafless and grey,
the land below dissolving into a foggy haze. We hover
forever in this almost-dawn but in my iris it is always night.
My throat burbles an unsung aria of flame. Still, I wait.

Often, our world is lifted elsewhere. Many come. Many go.
To them, I am little more than a lantern glow. Those who
dawdle before us smile at the prince’s boyband charm, or
the carpet’s swirling curlicues, but you, you stop. You peer
at the cold coal that birthed me. Your eye meets mine
and at last, the gaze is complete. Tell me, what do you see?