Icarus Descending,
A Lament for the Common Man

Behold Brahms: who can conjure melodies
that dissolve your center to infinity.
—And you, poor you, can only revel in
its transcendental melancholy when
you ache to claim some music yours,
with wonder whereby wearied souls can soar.

Olympic athletes, too, both share and shame,
when hundredths of a second mark a claim
to gold. We celebrate performance at
the margin: natural selection that
exalts the finest few to claim the prize
and leaves the multitude, unfit, to vie.

One humble lab assistant, discontent
with tending cultured germs in flasks, invents
a shallow covered dish. Soon others find
the versatility of its design:
the glassware catapults to public fame,
though no one knows the man with Petri's name.

the hope: some desperate vehicle (despite
the curb) will tunnel into turmoil, strike
this fragile flesh and render it to grace.
the hope: that cruel anonymity
will fill this gut with random gun debris
and pardon sans occasion for excuse.

In classic myth, young Icarus once dared
to reach the atmospheric layers where
the ozone once embraced the earth. He dreamed,
he erred, he cascades earthward: his tragic theme
now etched in parabolic freefall, a trace
reminding all of hubris, human place.

In modern times, atomic hubris wants
instead a pyrotechnic denouement.
Anthropic global warming fuels the winds
of climate change and in a century
relentless turbulence and entropy
erases every vestige of intent.

Could Archaeopteryx have known its fate,
a transient species with unfinished traits,
mere protoype for more triumphant flight?
Did it plan to spread its wings so carefully,
an evolutionary legacy,
deliberate consolation, failing life?

© Douglas Allchin
27 February 1998–22 June 2000