Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Icarus Myth Retold (Poem)

The Icarus Myth Retold

     The real world doesn't take flight
        the way dreams do....
           ~ from "The Real World" by Wislawa Szymborska in Map:
             Collected and Last Poems


We cannot sum their numbers
of breaths, though we hear
his to the end. We can gather
no last words, row by row,
back to front. He says nothing

to explain what reporters lead
with. Who dreamed this path
of flight that no one ascends.
His youthful claim was to soar
so high, this Icarus who chose

instead to ignore the command
to pull up. The fact of steel
wings is not how they burn too
close to sun, so low to touch
sea, but how unforgiving they are

in the clefts of French mountains.


Half-way round the world
we learn in real time what
black boxes hold clues to:
direction and lift and speed,

engine temperature, pressure
in the cabin, flap settings—
modern flight data not needed
for an ancient myth. What fails is

not technology, Daedalus warned.


There was no escape.
Icarus's mind was a cloudless
vision at some thirty-eight
thousand feet and cruising.

When the elder stepped
away from the controls—
needing to—gravity shifted
without the counterweight

of the younger's conscience
to not take the plane
down. Where granite would
not yield, as mass and energy

conspired in final descent,
he, behind that locked door,
continued reducing the distance
calculated for greatest impact.

© 2015 Maureen E. Doallas

This poem is dedicated to the tragic loss of Germanwings flight 9525.

1 comment:

Peggy Rosenthal said...

Interesting, Maureen: we think of the Icarus myth as a lesson in hubris, but your poem makes us re-think Icarus's final action as something psychically more complex.