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19| The Phoenix and the Lion: A Hauntology

After Jacques Derrida after William Shakespeare

Patrick Thomas Henry


[The time]

when the slope-shouldered lion, triumphant, lurks through
the leonine yellow of wind-fanned, sun-withered grass
with his white incisors piercing, prizing the phoenix by
the bird’s fractured spine; convulsing, she molts embers
of feathers and blood that, glowing, cascade to blunted
brown earth where they cinder, cool, spend themselves
in desperate grey moans of smoke that gather until destiny
blows them onward, in pursuit of the lion’s black-fanged
hunting shadow. That shadow, ghost of devouring time,

[is out]

staging for the end of history, when the lion’s hour will come:
after rending the phoenix with age-blunted claws, after the long-
lived phoenix’s blood burns centuries away in his gullet and
renders inside him sulfurous and tormenting flames. Poor lion,
poor ghost: encountering the phoenix, the first time is always
a last time. So do whatever you will, Time: but you shall do
your worst. What the lion and the phoenix unfold, I bound
myself to hear, and to revenge: to witness the heat emanating
from the cinders hatching — beak and feathers flaring forth -
in a nest of leonine yellow grass; to witness in the emerald of a
lion’s eyes a phoenix’s thousand lives immolating his psyche.
This, Time, is what you seek to scratch out in dark lines that
spill black and blood-hot from the nib of your antique pen —
Time devours all: lion and phoenix — but the story phases, out

[of joint]

in uncoupled chains of wild and whirling words that evoke the
advent of their (of our) silent ghosts. Phoenix, love, may the beauty
in this pattern of fire-born lines uncouple us from Time’s hell.
Phoenix: though my verse apprises you not of eternal youth, it can
fashion in the forge of your revivals links, words of eternal reprisal.
Rest, rest, perturbed spirit: we will go on together, fingers sealing
our lips. You, phoenix, rise from the silences to rekindle the faint
fires of memory, against Time, cooling us instant old as raked coals.
You and I were reborn to set this right. So come, let’s go together.

Patrick Thomas Henry holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Rutgers University and is currently pursuing his PhD at the George Washington University. His fiction has appeared in Lowestoft Chronicle, The Siren, Green Briar Review, Revolution House, The Writing Disorder, The Writing Disorder Anthology, and Northville Review. He has also contributed reviews to Necessary Fiction, Sugar House Review, and Modern Language Studies. He lives in Alexandria, VA, with his fiancée and their cat.

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