Yes, the Fall, But Oh That Rise! Icarus Reconsidered

In the end our rebel dies,

but what a meteoric rise!

Better to fall from a flaming star

than never to soar so high and far.

Imagine the youth’s incredible rush:

Drugs, sex, and rock in one great gush!

And the thrill of that still in his eyes

as he drops from the skies.

The officers call in one fatality,

but death gives him immortality.


Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper


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.”


Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper