Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew

Icarus, 1944, Henri Matisse

I know I am a writer and not a painter because when I first saw Henri Matisse's "Icarus," the words of Jack Gilbert's poem about the fated character in Greek mythology burned crimson in my chest and reverberate against the walls of my rib cage -- resembling that small red dot in the upper left-center of the figure (Icarus? Daedalus?) of Matisse's 1944 painting. But then, aren't writers painting with words and aren't painters writing with form and color? Sometimes there is not a word for things. At these times I feel an urge to throw whole cups of paint on large white canvases, the color of which might depend on the day. Sometimes there is no word to describe a feeling except that color of blue or that color of red and in throwing them onto something blank, together they create a cyanotic synergy -- as if in expelling the colors from my soul I have lost the breath inside and expunged the deep tumbling of word-thought-emotion from the depths of my belly to create something that someone else can look at and say, "yes, me too." Which causes me to wonder, do we express to create or do we express to expel or do we express to expel what is in us to create something to which another soul can connect?

Failing and Flying
by Jack Gilbert

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It's the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.

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