Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
—Jack Gilbert, “Failing and Flying”
Like some nocturnal Icarus,
I dream too close to heaven—
I fly too close to morning—
and I wake in pieces. And so
I woke this Wednesday, a child
disarmed in sleep and felled
By the gravity of the ancient light
he dawns in. But I rose—
A trick Icarus mastered just once,
but oh how he mastered it ! —
And I walked straight out into
everything, feeling too poor
For the wealth of my days,
and wondering what became
Of the currents that buoyed me
yesterday. Driving to work,
Regretting the towers that grow
now where horses
Used to run, I passed on the road
a felled bird: An Indian
Mynah, pariah of the suburbs,
freshly dead and stuck for good now
In the slow lane. A circle of his kind
stood a brown mourning around him.
Making sure; ministering his passage.
One moved forward to check
His pockets; the others, though,
held back, piecing together
A memory of how he flew.
© Mark Tredinnick
Published in Eureka Street, late 2013.
“Icarus” is the memory of a sonnet. It began with the image of the birds, Indian Mynas gathered in a circle around one of their own, felled by a bus, I’d guess, on the Crescent, by Harold Park in Glebe. That remarkable natural phenomenon took me back to Jack Gilbert’s wise rereading of the Icarus story. A marriage ends: all we can see is that it’s ended; we forget the most of it, which is how it flew. I might have written this poem just yesterday; in fact, I wrote it almost a year ago. It’s reached Scotland already, and as a sonnet in a sonnet’s traditional form, it was first published in Eureka Street. But I remade it for Zeina, in part to solve a design problem, and I liked the way it suddenly became not a sonnet, but a memory, pieced together, of how a sonnet flew. Mark Tredinnick