Failing and Flying

Jack Gilbert

 

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.

 
Copyright © 2005 Jack Gilbert. From Refusing Heaven, 2005, Alfred A. Knopf. Reprinted with permission.

Poems by This Author

By Small and Small: Midnight to Four A.M. by Jack Gilbert
Going There by Jack Gilbert
Of course it was a disaster
Horses at Midnight Without a Moon by Jack Gilbert
Our heart wanders lost in the dark woods.
South by Jack Gilbert
In the small towns along the river
Summer at Blue Creek, North Carolina by Jack Gilbert
There was no water at my grandfather's
Tear It Down by Jack Gilbert
We find out the heart only by dismantling what
The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart by Jack Gilbert


Further Reading

Poems about Ambition
Essay on Man, Epistle II
by Alexander Pope
All those Attempts in the Changing Room!
by Anne Stevenson
Civilization
by Carl Phillips
Famous
by Naomi Shihab Nye
Fisherman
by Kurt Brown
George Gray
by Edgar Lee Masters
See It Through
by Edgar Guest
That Everything's Inevitable
by Katy Lederer
The Ecstasy
by Phillip Lopate
To You
by Walt Whitman
Untranslatable Song
by Claudia Reder
Poems about Divorce
Coming and Going
by Tony Hoagland
Ebb
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Family Reunion
by Jeredith Merrin
Good Night
by Wilhelm Müller
Hey Allen Ginsberg Where Have You Gone and What Would You Think of My Drugs?
by Rachel Zucker
In Praise of Their Divorce
by Tony Hoagland
Mag
by Carl Sandburg
Ring
by Melissa Stein
The World as Seen Through a Glass of Ice Water
by Dobby Gibson
Why should a foolish marriage vow
by John Dryden
Poems about Flying
A Kite for Aibhín
by Seamus Heaney
Afterlife
by Joan Larkin
Balance
by Adam Zagajewski
Falling
by James Dickey
Flying
by Sarah Arvio
Flying at Night
by Ted Kooser