Icarus Found: A Poem Remembered

Recently, my husband and I traveled south to visit family for the holidays. As he has done on all our road trips, my husband curates music, radio shows, and intersperses his own running monologues critiquing economics, art, fitness trends, and politics as I drive..  He is indeed a Renaissance man. As he talked, he mentioned Icarus in passing.  At once, words popped into my head, and I recited to him:  “Falling, falling, falling – down through the distant sky – like Icarus on melted wings – Never asking why.” 

            “Oh, that’s good,”  my husband replied, “Where’s that from?” 

            I laughed, “From me.  I wrote that in college. It’s part of a longer poem.  But I had forgotten all about it until now.”

My husband went on with his story.  I tried to pay attention, but my lost poem kept rolling around in my mind.  It had been published in my college literary magazine,  Cul-de-sac. At the time, I thought being published in the Cul-de-sac and being part of the editorial board was the height of literary success. I had kept several clippings but had lost them all in subsequent moves.  This was long before the Internet and all things digital, and I had tossed out all my college notebooks on some impetuous whim.  In my twenties, I was not aware of the need to keep memories.  Now, in my sixties recalling memories and emotions is a sacred, almost devotional act.

I began recreating the poem silently in my head as I drove.  It was had three stanzas maybe four.  I couldn’t remember the exact words, but as I recited it my head, I got closer and closer to the original poem.  The rhythm of the road helped me to remember.  As the words came to me, in a short time so did  my  emotions. I thought about why I wrote that poem; all the loneliness and insecurity I felt came rushing back.  Though being sixty-five is certainly not a cakewalk, I don’t think I would want to be twenty again.  Don’t get me wrong. I would like to have my twenty-year-old skin, hair, knees, and back but not my twenty-year-old self-loathing that I have worked forty-five years to overcome.

My twenty-year-old poet-self wanted so much out of the world, wanted to do so much, and I felt so unprepared.  I was so desolate and so hopeful at the same time. I guess that’s the nature of twenty-something. At the time, I was taking a course on Ibsen.  We read one of his early poems as a prelude to his play, The Master Builder.  I was struck how his poem, written thirty-four  years earlier, connected to the essential message of his play.

I was very painfully aware of how ambition and desire were a dangerous mix.  I was not at all sure how  to build a strong artistic identity.  I think I am still struggling with that.  I create work – sometimes hiding it and sometimes presenting or publishing  it.  However, I think I have used teaching as a safety net.  If I fall, teaching could always save me.  Now, I’m facing the end years of my teaching career.  The art and writing are still strong within me. And that poem that I wrote forty-five years ago, still remains true.

4 thoughts on “Icarus Found: A Poem Remembered

  1. I love the last line … I want to be.

    And you are being, my friend. You are being every day … And every day you become more of who you are.

    I’m so very happy teaching has been your safety net, because you have saved and nurtured and blossomed many others who were falling — their wings melted by the heat of others who do not see them, do not value them, do not want them to be and fly as the individuals they are.

    And of course I’m happy you chose teaching … All the while continuing to wrote and create, for the blessings you and your growth and creations are to me!

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  2. Love the story here and then the poem remembered and your reflections on it all. I also love the comment above mine from Majifoil- so beautiful said!

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  3. I am approaching 30, and I feel this deeply: “I was not at all sure how to build a strong artistic identity. I think I am still struggling with that.” I want to be taken seriously in my artistic (writing) endeavors, but I think I am the one who does not take myself seriously. I struggle so much with impostor syndrome. Thank you for sharing these words; I loved your poem!!

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  4. The poem is so moving, and has that perfect little twist at the end that I love. How well you convey the twenty-something spirit of being hopeful and desolate at the same time. I am with you about not going back, however. I enjoy writing memoir to relive moments, but I would not go back, even though growing older gracefully it a bit harder each day! Above all, this speaks to me: “The art and writing are still strong within me.” Yes! And they will keep urging you to create. And we will keep enjoying your creations. As the teaching chapters close…seems to me exciting new ones may begin.

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