About longevity they were always curious,
the new journalists: about who would
live longest, and where, and why.
Their curiosity led them to Ikaria,
namesake island of the fabled Icarus,
fallen in the prime of youth,
un-marveled-at by those who noticed at all.
“Crazy kids,” someone probably said—
in ancient Greek, of course, making
the situation inherently more tragic.
Flying conditions were ideal
for that much earlier flight;
only a failure to follow instructions
resulted in disaster.
The journalists, from still young to middle-aged,
seek the agile centenarians,
to quiz them about food, drink, exercise,
and social habits, the quotidian details
of lives spanning many decades.
This time, the weather does not cooperate:
The journalists’ plane trembles
in high winds above rough seas.
Their wax has melted; like Icarus,
they are going down.
“Ironic, don’t you think,” one remarks,
“dying on a journey to vital age?”
Note: In The Guardian, in May 2013, Andrew Anthony writes of a trip to Ikaria to interview the elderly, during which he meets author Dan Buettner, who observes that it would be ironic if the longevity-seekers’ plane crashed and they died. The opening of the poem alludes, of course, to Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts.”
T. Allen Culpepper