No Phoenix

Inspired by an eye witness account of the forest fires raging in the south of France at the moment—a fire fighter describing being encircled by flames, and the most upsetting detail he remembers, seeing birds flying over the burning trees, their feathers aflame.


In this world of fire and blood, of swallowings by the sea or bullet hail, tears fill oceans, weeping sears the air, and ragged vibrations of sorrow scorch the skin. So much misery, a black well never full, and yet I can still see a bird, lost in frantic fluttering, flee a forest fire, its feathers in flames, and find my heart can break again.


No phoenix flies far,

no resurrection from this

inferno, just tears.

When flames sweep the sky I watch

feathers fall like burning stars.


Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

33 thoughts on “No Phoenix”

      1. Yes, I can relate. This world can be harsh when we are still to ingest reality. I can only be still with that truth for only so long otherwise I feel helpless and hopeless.

      2. You can’t get upset about everything, even the most tragic or you stop living. We used to live in the north of France and the place has war cemeteries every few kilometres and war memorials in ever hamlet. I used to get choked up every time we drove anywhere.

      3. True. My grandfather was a soldier and he was very damaged by the war he saw. Aside from losing an arm, mentally he was broken. War has far too many casualties and not
        Just human life.
        The sun is out with the rise of a beautiful day so for today I will be grateful.

      4. Have a lovely evening (?). Simple things like that are what people like your grandfather would probably say are the most important of all. When your spirit is broken by horrors, how can you appreciate the small things any more?

      5. Yes it is a calm serene rainy evening. I’m listening to it now. Bliss.
        True. He was broken until he passed away. Hopefully now he flutters his wings as his cocoon unfolds to greet a new day.
        That’s what I’m doing. The god of small things 🙂

      6. I can’t imagine it either but sometimes I can feel something. Hence, agnostic. My nan used to say we are all recycled haha

      7. 🙂
        Anyway, powerful post. It seems to have evoked a stream of thoughtful consciousness.

  1. As humans we are far to apt to forget the suffering of the animals and birds and insects, trees and flowers and grasses as we minutely examine the human toll in any tragedy. Thank you for this … as much as the thought makes me physically gag and I find futile tears in my eyes, it is so important to remember. And I thank the poor scarred fireman too … scarred by the horror of seeing, smelling, hearing helpless creatures fry.

    1. I was moved to tears by it. He had been in such danger, finding that the fire had worked around him and was cutting him off, had seen people’s homes go up in flames, but what he said was traumatising was seeing the birds. So touchingly gentle.

      1. That’s what I wanted to believe too. Every time I hear of a small instance of humanity I squirrel it away for the times when something happens to make me detest humanity.

    1. I found it touching that the fireman was more moved by that detail than by the homes (no doubt very ordinary, factory chain produced houses) going up in flames, and by his own danger of being engulfed by the fire.

  2. often when people attempt to capture the horrorific and tragic, the work ends up putting distance between the reader and the subject, abstracting it into a abstraction out there somewhere (maybe subconsciously done so by the poet – i know i have been guilty of that), but yours pulls in the reader (at least me) then in the end, through what may be a beautiful image, strikes to the heart of the matter.

    1. I’m glad you think it makes the image more immediate. It seems to me that graphic description has the same effect as some of the scenes in Saving Private Ryan—seeing fifty scenes of fountains of blood and body parts doesn’t have fifty times the impact of seeing just one. We saturate quickly. I think appealing to the emotions through analogy is more forceful than straight description. It goes to the heart without transiting through shock, horror, disgust.

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