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