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self-portrait as icarus

“if it is violence that turns boys into               men,/
it must be love that turns them into                   fathers”

Poetry | Poetry Tuesday, poetry
November 7, 2023

Based on Landscape with the Fall of Icarus by Pieter Bruegel

this is how i fell into that spring morning:


arms spread wide open, feet as bare

as the nights when i used to chase fireflies

in the garden behind my father’s house,

the cool mist touched my cheeks

as forgiving as the large hands

that had once cupped my bruised face                                                               as a child

in the distance, the sea

grazed the old fisherman’s toes as

he dipped his bait in the water

in a few hours, when he came home,

his children would         tug

on his trousers at the door

and he would pick them


with the same trembling fingers

with which he had gutted

the swordfish on the shore

i thought of my father’s                         rough palms, holding

the crooked hammer, cutting

into the sharp stone

how when i crawled into his lap, he put


the blade and kissed my forehead

with the soot on his lips

if it is violence that turns boys into               men,

it must be love that turns them into                   fathers

they got it wrong, you know?

i was never looking                                                 at the sky

instead, i was watching                 the sun

cast shadows on the farmer’s

shoulders as he planted wheat flowers in the dirty

fields,                                                           i thought of my father’s arms

as               wide               as             the             horizon,

when he taught me how to tell the time of the day

just by looking at the patterns of light

on the ground,                               but even then,

i never looked at                               the sun.

i only stared at his chin and               knew that when the skin grew


it was time to go home

i wondered if the waves would feel           as fleeting as         the days

when i was still small





on his spine,

closer, i could hear the shepherd calling                         to his sheep

i knew that he wouldn’t                           turn

around even when he heard my body

hit the water,

he had to feed                                                         the sheep

to make sure           that the wool was thick

enough                             to keep his children warm

through the next winter

tomorrow, he would teach his son                how to hold the big

herding stick in                     his small


in my last         breath,       i thought of the            first

time my father let me hold                                     the hammer

and chip

at the stone,

how even when i broke the smooth corners

of the wall           he had spent hours working on

he told me he was proud,

under the weight             of his calloused palms               on my back,

i felt   like