by Dave Lucas
It’s never Icarus. It’s not that grand
gesture of feather, wax and atmosphere
in flux, it’s less than that, it’s lesser than—.
It doesn’t happen in pentameter:
suffering, failure, agonies in gardens,
but in the sideways-speak of bureaucrats
whose words, like these, disguise what they intend.
Under soft, fluorescent suns of waiting rooms,
physicians’ consultations, where the lungs
on the light box are spread out like wings,
all this illumination just to show
the dark spots slowly blotting out our names.
Sadder than tragedy, and silly, these cuts
that bleed you dry. I mean you. You know
as well as I—Icarus is not for us.
He flies and falls, that’s all. He doesn’t joke
to hide his fear, or seem ashamed, or wound
lovers with rusted, jagged-edged words.
He never sulks in tristesse after sex.
He’s young and proud. He likes the sound
of his own voice. Of course the world must break
and scatter him among the falling birds.
It’s never him. His father, Daedalus—
he’s our muse, bent to an unforgiving craft
in someone else’s labyrinth, the dark
exile in which he sets himself to work:
letting the candles gutter so the wax
spills, seals vane and down at quill and shaft,
working longer into the thankless night.
He has worked feathers into these wings for years.
He has slim hope, at best, that they will hold.
Come daybreak they will stand outside the gate
and test the wind. For once he will be bold.
At last he sleeps, in fits and half-dreamed fears
that love, and work, and life are passing vapor,
and all the wings he’s made he’s made of paper.
Last updated November 20, 2022