image: Jacob Peter Gowy’s The Fall of Icarus (1635–1637)
A daughter dies, and she is found,
in the cerulean movements of birds.
Not a hawk. Mother Sky
says those are for boy’s souls.
The father sees mockingbirds
building a nest of pine twigs
in the corner frieze of the portico
and imagines a flash of her smile
in there frequent swoops to his shoulders
as he dares to fetch the mail.
This is not a defensive attack, he thinks,
not really harpies.
Maybe a hello?
Maybe her just checking in?
It made sense.
She was always hiding in high places.
She once was found sleeping in a crag
of Old Wauhatchie Pike on one joint climb.
She often danced on the roof,
sketch pad in hand, until she found
the perfect angle to stencil
either the setting or rising sun.
The mockingbirds screeches
waking him in the morning
were an act of love, maybe,
turning a casual belief
into a hopeful faith.
It was silly for him to think
that the mockingbirds were
his daughter’s soul.
But then the father
thought of Icarus
every time the mockingbirds
would rise and soar high in the drafts
until their glint vanished into the sun.
He rebelled at the thought that Mother Sky
would reserve waxen wings for a foolish boy.
His daughter had made herself silken wings.
He knew that, had harnessed them to her back,
leaving this butterfly in the babysitter’s care
while they went to attend the opera.
After the tuck in she scrambled onto the roof
determined to sketch the rise of the moon,
and knowing that anything was possible,
she closed her eyes and leapt.
He remembered the babysitter’s
frantic call to come home, NOW!
Then, there was just the echo
of his daughter’s laughter. Maybe?
He could see her flying high in the day sky
even though the night, the real night,
had queened her kingdom to the existence
of her swaying silently between pine and earth,
her feet never touching the ground.
He wanted to tell her to come down.
TO COME DOWN NOW.
But he could not.
She was too high up,
lost in the promise of flight.
And he was too small.
He let her go.
Let her fly away from him
on silken wings
that never melted.
Proud to see her fly
so high, even in his dark.