My Icarus

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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Categories: Issue 5, Poetry | Leave a comment

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