Two Poems

Thomas Leonard Shaw

Reimagining Icarus’s Flight in Reverse
(for Jaya)

What fabrications they are, mothers.
Scarecrows, wax dolls for us to stick pins
into, crude diagrams. We deny them an
existence of their own, we make them up to
suit ourselves — our own hungers, our own
wishes, our own deficiencies

– Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin

What if Icarus fell first into fire
               before the plunge to water. Premature
always it seems, glimmering to freedom,

             the burst                   of feathery lightness before
             ascent. Here Icarus happens
                          the sun, burning seams,

taking shape, melting in the tenderness of fire. Here consequence
            reverses, desire immolates what is left of a body
                            breaking free into a soul that desires

to be the closest to light it has ever felt. Thus the sacrifice
                is a body turning wax tendons and ligaments into
droplets plummeting, swallowed by never ending ocean. What ends

                the departure but a body sinking and returning
to the unquenchable bottom. Here we reimagine possibilities,
             but perhaps this is a legend unskinned until Icarus finally becomes



Here free           fall. Skin sputter
feather             flutter. Drift, sway
on                   long winds.      Icarus
forgoes the grip as wings                   disappear

into blue.              Ocean awaits as sculpture’s

fingers                    ready to press and pry
heated wax,           or skin peeled away until
what remains is the glory of the inner                   self.

And when whipped                         by air
             turned, twisted around the fulcrum
of a body defecting to                  gravity, Icarus will
understand the transience             the transformation

that is necessary to understanding freedom. Here               he
cleaves to something, a name   melting into            the greater

namelessness. A defiance of limits that can only be uttered
by one

                                  who falls

                                                                 to a grace

                                                                                       no one else can take.


First recovered are hands parting
through water’s foam skin, or water

              giving way to flight that seethes arrival
              as ocean churning around displacement

                              of a body spat from the sky, but never grace
                             and never its promised lands. Rather finger

                                             squeeze and leg kick give way to fists unclenching,
                                             a torso embraced. What erases from Icarus

                                             is all mention of a former name. Setting aside legacy
                                             of a father’s invention and the dooming promises

                                                              of freedom. But perhaps the desire of immolation,
                                                              suffering turned giving way to a body carving

                                                                            out oceans. Here Icarus attains peace
                                                                            in the aftermath of flight, what remains – a body

reclaiming escape of a skin into relinquishment.
Now claims Icarus water in place of a body.


When a Child Questions Life

Hizonos dios, y maravillamos nos

Your mother swore life begins
              With a kick, or violence
against the flesh that embraces

a thumb beginning to form, a heart
beating against its binding, a ribcage
growing ready to               break

once you are pulled into the world. To say
then is that the miracle is violence,
the sudden expulsion outside

until you feel                light drape
over skin, over the knee that professes
kneeling as a worthy sacrifice for                     One

whose mercy you will not quite understand
until you are older, until skin rips apart, until
the first time you learn to ask a question

Why do callouses take shape why does                    violence
take all that you love. Why am I alive
and why am I here now?

Here you shall pray for mercy and realize,
you are                 tethered to suffering
through the virtue of a voice unable to ask consent.

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