My Icarus

–A Poem by David Romtvedt

 

It was on a Thursday when a young man

dropped from the sky into my back yard.

I know it was Thursday because that’s when

I do the gardening which between mowing,

trimming, mulching, weeding, and watering

takes all day. The mulch is my favorite part–

spreading the cut grass around the plants

to keep the ground cool in the desert heat.

 

The young man hit one of the railroad ties

I’d used to make raised beds for vegetables

and broke his elbow—the bend of his wing—

or that’s what I thought but when I looked

closer I saw goose feathers glued carefully

to a hand-carved wooden armature attached

with leather belts to his shoulders and chest.

 

So this is Icarus. How could he be here

so far from the Pacific and farther still

from the Aegean? When he fell, his father

came swooping down to find a sheen

of white feathers on the shining black sea.

 

 

He cried out and cursed himself

for inventing human flight.

He’d given his son the same warning

my father gave me—“Don’t fly too close

to the sun for the heat will melt the wax,

the feathers will fall off and you will fall.”

I’ve fallen more times than I can count

but keep trying to fly, feeling it is my duty

to get as close to the sun as possible.

Like other young men, I ignored

my father’s warnings and now

that he’s dead I can’t apologize.

 

I lifted the youth from the railroad tie

and saw that when he hit the tomatoes,

they cushioned his fall and he was smeared

not with blood but with the crushed fruit–

a mixture of too many Hollywood movies

and my aging eyes which I hate to admit

don’t work as well as they once did.

 

I helped him to a lawn chair,

gave him a beer with lime juice,

and went back to mowing.

I use an electric mower and the blue cord

trails behind, the jerky electrons turning

the blade to chew up the grass.

 

He coughed and set the beer aside.

Then he stood and came toward me,

pointing at the mower and waving his arms,

his cough so violent that I worried

he might hurt himself. When I touched him,

he shook off my hand and began pushing

the mower—faster and faster until his feet

barely touched the ground.

 

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