A New Yorker Thinking About Depictions of Icarus


A New Yorker Thinking About Depictions of Icarus

The closest to Icarus
I’ve ever seen
was the second plane streaming
into the World Trade Center.

Though the plane
was not trying to ascend–
it was flying level, straight,

There was no wing flap, no halt
of collecting breath.
It seemed, in that great blue stare,
as if the plane expended
no effort at all–

until it made its own
fire ball, a gaseous fist
of orange sun blooming black,
and the street, which had like me
been watching dumbly,

All that felt like wax
was time–it fixed us–me at Bleecker
and Sixth; to my side, a tall woman,
grey streaks in parted hair, face re-running
her partner’s schedule that downtown day–

When seeing the dark shapes that later spiraled
from the smoking windows,
some science high school kids, much closer to the scene,
thought  that they were desks being thrown out,
people trying, for some strange reason,
to save their work–

Smaller children, led away
from a nearby elementary,
looked up and saw
big birds.


Here’s a drafty poem for Marina Sofia’s prompt on dVerse Poets Pub. Marina’s prompt is really to write of something seen from the corner of an eye, but she discusses, in a lovely way, Breughel’s painting, “The Fall of Icarus” and various poems about it; so this was what came up for me.

Process note–Icarus, the son of the great craftsman Daedelus, escaped from Minos’s palace in Crete with wax wings fashioned by his father.  Despite his father’s warnings, he flew too close to the sun, and the wax melted.  Of course, many people jumped from the WTC rather than be burned.

The above image is Rubens’ painting of Daedelus and Icarus–no copyright infringement intended. 

PS — sorry for the plug, but I’d be most grateful to anyone for checking out my new book, Nice–available on Amazon and in Kindle.  

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27 Comments on “A New Yorker Thinking About Depictions of Icarus”

  1. brian miller Says:

    oy. remember where i was that day…and watching that second plane…its a rather chilling memory for me…as i had been in the air when the first one hit…oy…the kids seeing birds…perhaps that is for the best…for them, you know…oy

  2. redgladiola Says:

    Hello, fellow New Yorker. I was in Brooklyn when it happened, but I could see the skyline and the billowing aftermath. This really brought back memories.

  3. Jamie Dedes Says:

    Profoundly moving, K. I don’t believe I’ll be able to think of anything else tonight. Thank you!

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks, Jamie. Not sure if that’s good. I’m still very uncertain about the end. I was going to have the smaller children just thinking of birds– “looked up and thought of birds” but that may not be so clear. Thanks as always for your kind support and hope all well. K.

  4. billgncs Says:

    wow! I suppose for most of us, eventually 9/11 fades, but for some – it never can.

  5. MarinaSofia Says:

    A very sad take on the prompt, deeply moving – and very apt. I’d never made the link before, but yes, ultimately those stuck in the Towers were just like Icarus, trying to escape.

  6. A day I still recall vividly.. how all work ceased and we all watched the live transmission.. I could imagine how different it was when you were there.. (and my thought when I saw the Bruegel painting was also on 9-11).. There are those events that never fades, personally I remember — vividly — when the ferry, Estonia, went under 20 years ago. I lived for a short time in the US , and switching on CNN in the morning I suddenly heard Swedish being spoken.. It was in the corner of my eye, but it struck like a lighting bolt into the California sun.

  7. Mary Says:

    Very moving poem,K. These are images, out of the corner of one’s eye, which will live forever in one’s mind. They are etched in the consciousness of all of us from the images shown on television, but even more so I know on people who have viewed the devastation firsthand.

  8. This touched me. As someone who lived at W9th and 6th Ave there was always a hole in the skyline where the towers once stood.

  9. Myrna Says:

    Ugh! I just wrote a long drawn out comment but my ipad is acting up and I lost it. ^%$#@*!!
    Just want you to know first of all the sadness of this poem and that I can see why Marina’s words stimulated your memory of this. The children seeing birds made me smile inspite of the reality.

    Also, wanted you to know I read your book a couple of weeks ago but have been too busy to even let you know. Congratulations. You’ve written something tender, so, so human and real. I love how you depict the girl’s mixed feelings as well as her brother’s. Sorry, I already forgot their names, but will never forget the book. I worked a lot with sexually abused kids and often the abuse was not violent but it was always traumatic and left a scar. Your book exposes the many human emotions involved and how parents often don’t realize what’s going on.
    I also want you to know that beyond the story, I thoroughly enjoyed your writing. You know how to captivate, how to be gentle but real. Again, congratulations!

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Myrna, That is so very kind of you. I so appreciate your taking the effort to read the book and write me about it. I think probably the strongest part of the book is that it does try to describe the mixed feelings related to this type of event–a lot of people put it in a capsule of all bad–not to say it’s not bad! Of course, it is, but it is very complex, like much in life, and it is the complexity of human relationships that is so interesting to me. Thanks so very much. k.

      On Wed, Oct 8, 2014 at 10:50 AM, ManicDDaily wrote:


  10. What a wonderful, sad poem, and such a thought provoking connection. I love this take on the prompt.


  11. Glenn Buttkus Says:

    Powerful piece, creative take on the prompt. 9/11 will always be more profound because so many of us watched the second plane strike its tower. Imagine if there had been actual TV live coverage of the JFK assassination, or Pearl Harbor; stone etched in our memories, & still staggering with the shock of the assault. Thousands of Icarus-like fallers, dropping like stunned birds at a nuclear bomb test site; incredible poem.

  12. claudia Says:

    oh heck… what a fall indeed… i forgot to breathe while reading this k.
    i cannot even imagine how it must’ve been for the people that stood in the street and see it happen right before their eyes – it must’ve felt like in a nightmare – and you hope you wake – and you don’t

  13. Mohana Says:

    Though in faraway India, 9/11 haunts us as well. Being an audience to a tragedy of this scale must be wrecking.
    I like the lines about the elementary kids as well.

  14. It truly is amazing how differently we can view a tragedy.. i remember that day.. sitting in the micro manager conference of an over controlling manager.. his words are.. we’ve got to get down to business.. yes there will probably me more attacks to come.. so let’s get down to business.. get focused.. that’s there this is here.. and business comes first…

    i determined then.. that i am already in the World Trade Center.. and the bomb is just ticking for me to get out….

    And yes.. i finally did escape that fire in burning building.. but not before.. i almost jumped out the window.. to finally gain freedom….

    There are so many people that live in the World Trade Towers.. of imminent threat.. to health and life.. but we get used to it..

    and call it life.. instead of what it really is.. a prison of death in life…

    Where we willing fly in planes of death.. in life…..

  15. Your piece is moving; it remind us of the horrors that happened not long ago. It is a sad story, but told with a dash of sweetness and beauty.

  16. Ugh, such a tragic day; my mother watched it live, I was outside playing and she called me in crying. That was a haunting afternoon

  17. My husband is from NYC and called me to the TV only to see the second plane hit. He kept asking: can this really be happening? You’ve captured it well here.

  18. Polly Says:

    I too recall where I was on that day, we watched on a TV in a Spanish shop – knew there was something dreadful happening from the looks on faces pinpointed on the screen. You merge the two tragedies seamlessly – good one, Karin.

    And…I’ve just got ‘Nice’ from Amazon, so will be looking forward to a jolly good read 🙂

  19. hedgewitch Says:

    Yes, I can see that there was something of myth about that day, especially fr New Yorkers watching it–something irrevocable and cruel as the old gods and the way they often made humans the butts of their tormenting and selfish jokes, schemes or punishments. The Icarus image is both fresh and frightening, and there’s a great immediacy to the style, a very rapid run, like the plummet–the very controlled plummet–of an airliner turned into a missile. A fine piece that glints like shattering glass, k.

  20. I was on a walk with about 12 preschoolers, hundreds of miles away and I was still afraid for their lives. You have really captured the numbness and disbelief that was felt and revealed the tiny little visuals lost in this horrific scene.

  21. grapeling Says:

    this is brilliant, k. ~

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks. It’s so nice to see you (digitally). I went by to say hi a few days ago but comments closed, but I’ve been thinking of you. Hope all is well. K.


      • grapeling Says:

        ah, I’d forgotten that I’d closed comments after 14 days automatically to reduce spamming. opened back up. not much for me to say of late, but good to read again. ~

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