Recalling Icarus by Charlotte Garrett

They were out of everything:
flour, cat food, money, health,
but mostly they were out of love
with life.

They had done everything worth
doing from having and raising
children, cats and dogs, gardens,
roofs, even a bit of hell.
They’d traveled to all the known
and unknown places, camped at some,
climbed some, canoed, sailed, kayaked
others. They’d learned languages,
studied cathedrals, ruins, and birds.

They’d done it all, from scuba diving to
skydiving, which they liked best for
its beautiful terror, the lunge
into such a vastness of light and silence.
Then the rush of air against body,
the jerk into an upright position as
the chute bloomed above, and below the world
like a Polaroid photograph slowly resolving
from a blur of colors to distant details.

So while the children they had raised
talked about what they should do,
they silently sold the silver tea service
they’d never used and the silver sword
said to have belonged to General Grant.
And the daughter whined that the tea
service was to have been hers, and the son
said he’d always coveted the sword.

But they ignored them, although they wondered
aloud if perhaps one thing they hadn’t done
was to teach their children
how to live. They concluded it was too late
to worry and continued with their plan.
Which was to rent a car to drive
to an airport where they could rent a plane,
pilot, and parachutes and take one last dive
into weightlessness, to feel, if only
for a moment, freedom from their bodies.

All went according to plan, and they plunged
from the plane hand in hand, singing
into the emptiness of the air just as
they had that other time. As they tumbled
away from each other, the earth seemed
both further away and then closer
than she remembered, explaining
the sudden jolt of slowed momentum.

He, seeing that the plan had changed,
felt for his ring, found it,
and, as nothing happened, continued
his long fall into the enlarging photograph
of lakes, mountains, seas below.

She, seeing what had not happened,
tried to maneuver her chute
to intercept him, arms and legs kicking
and twisting except that by then he
was a mere speck in blue air,
a hawk enjoying the up and down drafts
of a perfect summer day.

She, her own descent continuing
in a more leisurely manner,
commented to the supporting air that
indeed, they had done everything now.

And that indeed, they were out
of everything.

From: Garrett, Charlotte, “Recalling Icarus” in The Southern Review, 35.2, Spring 1999, p. 218.

Date: 1999

By: Charlotte Garrett (19??- )

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