After Pieter Brueghel’s “The Fall of Icarus” and
W.H. Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts”
Just hours ago, I found you ashen and cold
on the floor of your sun-swaddled room,
the needle beside you as splendid in design,
as lethal in misuse, as Icarus’s waxed wings.
I did not witness your fall from grace,
only hurried to a thud, as Daedalus no doubt
harkened to a splash – such innocent sounds,
onomatopoeias, merry in the mouths of children.
I lent you lungfuls of my half-used breath,
swallowing fury and fear like poisoned prayers,
waiting for sirens to turn up our street,
to turn back time in a miraculous reanimation.
Now, you sit beside me and sip soup off a spoon
with your pink-again lips, swallow, stare at the TV –
at raging fires, caged children, the shot-dead,
the turned-away – then sip, swallow, stare again.
Even you, so newly scolded by the sun after
aiming for an ecstasy not meant for this earth –
your white legs disappearing into deep oblivion –
even you quite leisurely turn away from disaster.
Did Daedelus learn something about hubris
as he watched his son plummet into the laughing sea?
And what am I to learn from this echo of error?
I crafted your wings from my own blood and hours.
Tomorrow, the untroubled world will resume:
the ploughman will walk dully behind his horse,
expensive, delicate ships will calmly set sail,
the fisherman will gaze lazily at a tug on his line.
And only the fish ripped gasping from the sea,
the whipped horse, the scurvy-ridden sailor, the father,
the mother who wrestled Thanatos and now inquisition,
will glimpse something startling and not turn away.
B. Fulton Jennes is a poet and educator who has led workshops for children, teens, and adults for 30 years. As a public-school English teacher, she introduced thousands of students to performance poetry and continues to advise a teen spoken-word team. Recently, Jennes was selected to attend the Breadloaf Writing Conference as a general contributor; her poem “Not” was awarded second place in the Connecticut Poetry Society’s annual competition and will appear in the 2020 edition of the Connecticut River Review.