Icarus on the 4.15

He folds his arms beneath his breastbone
and feels the stubs of wings take form again –

the cauterised nubs of shoulder-blades
where surely, feathers should be streaming forth

in colourful obscenity. But colour is as quick
as mercury sheeting on the surface of a trough,

and the clutch of nausea in the diaphragm
always raises thoughts of heavy metals.

The cotton of his shirt lies undisturbed,
its pocket crocodile triumphant.

One rarely trusts the light that comes through trains –
far too often allied with the dust

that forms thick crusts along the window-edging,
opaquing out all other lives but this.

Sometimes though, it picks the copper out of plumage,
or hums the harmony of the sweet burn of flight,

and there are always streaks of metal, waiting
till their clash with light will let them be identified.

The periodic table can be read with fingers,
like a broken molar, or tilted on its end as a ladder

and read forever upwards. The sky
has never had the strength to be a limit anyway.

But a city transit system at midday
is hardly the place for a spectrometer,

and the heart, like thallium,
can be cut with a knife at room temperature.

It takes an upright stance, a full-width snap
of straining limbs to fight the wind.

His thumbs fold over one another in the simplest of litanies,
and in his Icarus dreaming, he could teeter

off this cliff edge, his trailing foot bringing small stones
and dust whose path could not diverge

more cleanly from his own. But this drab trap
of laminate and PVC, of masquerading rubber

that has never earned the name, is far too cramped
to tolerate a full unfurling.

These dullard plastic compounds murder wingspan,
though in truth, even the most precious metals are earthbound.

There is only room for a shifting of the shoulders,
an embarrassed thought of flex, and,

in tiny jolts beneath his shirt, the dry scrape
of quills, splintered, catching in the cotton.

Geoff Lemon

Comments are closed.