There were two lit candles on the small wood table, and in each flame lived a tiny phoenix.
As the candles burned only a single day – from morning until night – so did the creatures. Born at dawn at the instant of the quickening of the fire, each cried itself into the world by sending its birthsong across the table, and this is how they learned of one another.
Neither could leave its flame lest it crumble into ash in the cold, and so they stayed and they sang. Their songs were intricate, both gentle and passionate, and when they met in the smolder of the hot air it was a kind of lovemaking, the notes gripping and changing one another.
In the morning, they sang their memories in peals of yellow. This sounded like sunshine and the fluffing of fire feathers as they told each other stories of the sunrise, and their bright flames of laughter reached out to lick one another, and they took turns warbling softly as each listened to the other’s blue wounds.
In the afternoon, they sang their longing in oranges and reds. This was a candlesong with flecks of hot wax spitting through it, as they danced their voices toward each other’s syncopation, and whispered lovesongs and lullabies, and cooed over their own burning plumes and those of the other when the songs began to singe and open white cracks in their fiery skin, and all the time each caressed the other’s calling with flame kisses.
In the evening, they sang their loss in notes that grew deep scarlet-black. This was a shrill-soft duet of shrieking and fading, the notes of each reminding the other of the joys and pains of the day, songs born of little flame hearts being broken and mended, and sometimes just a quiet sonic holding of each other in soft sooty voices.
And at dusk, when the wax puddled on the tabletop and the flames sputtered out, each tiny bird disappeared into a puff of smoke and ash and moonlight.
[You can return to The Elizabeths this way.]