Under the cover of night, Icarus,
careful not to wake his captors from sleep,
flees from the prison built by his father’s
master. He does not look back. He does not
stop. Just as Icarus arrives at the border
of the sky, more North than he’s ever thought
possible, Master’s son, with blazing rage,
strikes the wings from Icarus’ shoulders with a whip,
a tendril of flame hungry for dark meat.
Icarus plummets into the river and drowns.
The river carries him and spits him out
someplace colder, some unfamiliar South,
where he’ll tread forever in an ocean
always bloated blue with bodies of kin.
Copyright © 2019 Jonathan Teklit. This poem originally appeared on poets.org as part of the 2019 University and College Poetry Prizes. Used with permission of the author.
Jonathan Teklit was born in Alexandria, Virginia and raised in Dubai. He is a senior at Franklin and Marshall College and is working towards a joint major in psychology and creative writing. Teklit is the winner of the 2019 Aliki Perroti and Seth Frank Most Promising Young Poet Award for his poem "Black Mythology." About the poem, judge Marilyn Chin says:
“This brilliant and powerful retelling of the Greek myth of Icarus recasts a runaway slave as protagonist and hero. In just fourteen lines the compressed narrative grips us, and our shameful history of slavery is revealed in a compact quasi-sonnet frame. The words and images are carefully chosen for their spectacular symbolic power. For instance: ‘North’ and ‘unfamiliar South’ cleverly describe both the flight and fall of Icarus as well as plot the trail of the Great Migration. The haunting image of the Middle Passage—the ocean ‘bloated blue with bodies of kin’—closes the poem with stunning reverberations. I look forward to reading more poems by Jonathan Teklit in the future!”
Date Published: 2019-09-05
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/black-mythology