Scouring the “personal” archives at work today.
Among the gems was this poem by Jack Gilbert that I saved back in 2010.
I loved it then, having a vivid memory of the painting inspired by the myth, and I love it now. Today it had me contemplating that painting, Icarus’ feet pointing toward heaven after his fall. I tend to forget he also came close to touching the sun in his enthusiastic ascent. What beauty. What must that have been like for Icarus to witness? I sit today, wondering about the moments in my life to which I will return, my personal versions of “almost touching the sun.”
Failing and Flying
by Jack Gilbert
Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It’s the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.
“Failing and Flying” by Jack Gilbert, from Refusing Heaven. © Alfred A. Knopf, 2005 . Reprinted with permission.