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  • Stephen Altman

Everyone Forgets that Icarus also Flew

For all you divorcees out there, or other humans who might need a little reassurance after some hard knocks, here is “Failing and Flying,” by Jack Gilbert--this week's literary find on Scrapbook Friday.

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.


The painting is The Fall of Icarus, by Jacob Peter Gowy, at the Prado in Madrid. Considering the content of the poem, I might well have chosen a still from Kramer vs. Kramer or Marriage Story. But Gowy's baroque extravaganza has always been irresistible.

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