Poem of the Month: May 2013

icarus

We are all survivors, we bare the scars,
Faint tattoos telling stories of our life.
Some may read them, and others might have ears
Tuned to subtleties of our joy and grief.
There may be gains as summer follows spring,
When autumn drops and winter hollows out,
But then the seasons do not always bring
What we expect. We may not hear the shout
Of the youthful year, be lost to wintry beauty,
If we have moved to different, deeper dreams,
Far from the reaches of love, or duty,
Beyond the range of any others’ claims.
We are all survivors, but it may be
That we survive only in memory.

2

I'm a shadow of a shadow, no more
The one you knew than a cloud in the sky
Can claim permanence. I've travelled so far
(My migrations still mysterious to me]
From any known region, no maps to chart
My journey. I'm a leaf whose flesh is rot,
Woman suspended, whose warm beating heart
Beat on when all about me had forgot.
This shadow state has light but not enough,
It's OK, but has none of the fire
I once knew before, before the cuff
Of accident, brain blown, loss of power.
Others remark on how well I've done,
Shadow woman; the other one has gone.

3

Both of us witnessed when wingless you flew,
Headfirst Icarus, and gone in a blink,
Me, in my bedroom, with homework to do
Mum washing dishes below in the sink.
Mending the roof, your descent was unplanned
Ending loud and clumsy in the back yard
With hammer and nails still clutched in your hand,
Somehow alive though the impact was hard.
Now time, the healer, has not healed our loss,
For you are still here, though in what guise
And quite how much, it would be hard to guess,
From the twitch and flicker of your eyes.
We dive-bombed too, in the years since you fell,
And we, like you, have not landed well.

©James Nash 2013


This poem was written for the Before I Die Festival in Cardiff, May 2013. The picture is Breughel's 'The Fall of Icarus'...how much of Auden's poem Musee de Beaux Arts [about this painting] was in my head I don't know. If you look carefully you can see the legs of poor old Icarus in the water.