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When Fifty Boys Fall

Auden knew,

when he wrote about what happened the day Icarus fell.

That when a boy flies too close to the sun,

and falls into the sea

the ploughman continues ploughing,

And the ship sails on...

But what if Icarus had multiplied,

into twenty sons of Daedelus,

or fifty even?

Then, the ploughman’s wife,

reading up on current affairs,

may see the light change through the window

his daughter,

practicing her piano,

may hear the distant cries.

Perhaps they would rush out,

stand next to the ploughman

and watch as the ship shifts its sails

and turns back to where the boys have fallen.


the whole town would greet them,

feed them and offer clothes.

The news would spread like wildfire

that fifty boys,

dressed in nothing but a loincloth

found floating in feathers 

had arrived from nowhere

Would they ask them where they were headed?

Or where they were from?

And when all the Icaruses

replied at once

that they were flying to freedom-

Would the townspeople laugh,

and go back to their daily chores

Leaving these lost boys alone 

to build new wings on their own?

Or would the ploughman’s daughter

draw out a map,

while her mother gathers women to make signs

and all the people in the town

flicker their lights,

so that Daedalus

could see that his son was alive.

All the while,

the sun, sitting on its white legs

would fall behind the hills

and the moon would take its place

leaving Icaruses awaiting the next day.

A note on my process for this piece:

One day in June, I sat in a park to write. It was a beautiful day and it made me feel calm. I momentarily forgot about the state of the world. I found it hard to balance the beauty of things while staying aware of the gravity of our situation, and so, I wrote a poem about the sun. As I often do, I sent it to my mother- she told me it reminded her of Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts”. I had read it in high school and vaguely remembered it. A few days ago, I thought about that poem again, thought maybe I should re-write it. I re-read Auden’s and got settled in bed. Then, as I was falling asleep, the first two lines formed in my mind. I remember thinking I should get up and write, but instead I just let my brain create whatever it wanted to. And somehow, suddenly it wasn’t the same poem... I started writing in my head about Icarus multiplying. I was thinking about the power of people I suppose, but also the speed at which this virus has spread. The last thing I remember thinking was “don’t forget to write that down in the morning”.

By Lila Ciesielski


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