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.
Jack Gilbert, “Failing and Flying” from Refusing Heaven. Copyright © 2005 by Jack Gilbert.
Poet David Bauman came to the rescue when I was looking for a sound recording of Gilbert’s beautiful poem. You may listen to David read Gilbert’s piece below, and you may also visit David’s blog The Dad Poet to read his accompanying post and to listen to his song choice pairing “Why Walk When You Can Fly” by the lovely Mary Chapin Carpenter. Thanks again, David, we appreciate you!