Vivian Shipley, “An Old Husband’s Tale”
Daedalus was not a man, Icarus no boy. That’s a myth.
Without a husband to bind her, Daedalus turned nature
inside out, taught her daughter to fly from earth; after all,
men couldn’t fence air. Feathering Icarus in sequence
as a panpipe rises, Daedalus twined quills to mold two sets
of wings sealed in an icing of white wax, stiff as bridal lace.
Daedalus hovered, warning: Keep mid-way; water weights
and sun burns. Always follow me. Icarus rose or was pulled
up, casting her shadow on a ploughman, head lifted from
his rut, who grumbled, A woman’s place is in the home.
The mother tried to lift her arms higher to buffer her daughter
but blue enveloped Icarus who cried, Let’s fly all the way
to Trinacria. Knowing Samos was north and Calymne east,
Icarus ignored the earth’s warning being traced out for her
by the sharded coast of Crete. Unlike the moon that eclipses
the sun, filial duty cannot blot desire. Hopefully, the joy
gleaming in Icarus’ green eyes flashed, mercifully blinding,
and blocking the sight for Daedalus: her only child encircling
wings, writhing like a corn snake carried aloft by a hawk.
Imagine the girl, her mother’s support failing, the aerial lift
and impulse spent. Dripping to the sea, only the wax
hissed, floating as islands do. Daedalus did not fly again.
Unused, feathers yellowed; wax stiffened in her wings
that stretched out more like a shroud than a swan in flight.
Says Contest Judge Stephen Gibson, “It’s easy to see how Rick Lazes’s Meghan inspired “An Old Husband’s Tale.” This narrative is a wonderful, and chilling, retelling of the Daedalus-Icarus myth, this time with both characters being female, mother-daughter rather than father-son, and, with this version, though being perhaps more liberating initially, is, in the end, as with the original, cautionary.”
Connecticut State University Distinguished Professor, Vivian Shipley teaches at SCSU. She was awarded a 2020-21 COA Artist’s Fellowship for Poetry. Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, her 12 book, An Archaeology of Days, was published by Negative Capability Press in 2019 and was named The 2020-21 Paterson Poetry Prize Finalist. The Poet (SLU) and Perennial (Negative Capability Press, Mobile, AL) were published in 2015. All of Your Messages Have Been Erased, (2010. SLU) won 2011 Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement, NEPC’s Sheila Motton Book Award , and CT Press Club’s Prize for Best Creative Writing. Shipley won 2018’s Steve Kowit Poetry Award for “Cargo” and has also won Poetry Society of America’s Lucille Medwick Prize, Robert Frost Foundation’s Poetry Prize, University of Southern California’s Ann Stanford Poetry Prize, Marble Faun Poetry Prize from the William Faulkner Society, New England Poetry Club’s Daniel Varoujan Prize and Kent State’s Hart Crane Prize