Waiting for Icarus

Muriel Rukeyser

Rukeyser - 1913 – 1980  - was an American poet and political activist, best known for her poems about equality, feminism, social justice, and Judaism. John Adams set one of her poems to music in his opera Doctor Atomic
Waiting for Icarus is based on the Greek legend about Daedalus, a clever carpenter and inventor who was imprisoned at Knossos on Crete. Wishing to escape he invents wax wings and feathers for himself and his son Icarus, but warns Icarus not to fly too close to the sun.  Icarus, of course, ignores his father’s advice.   The wings melt – Icarus is toast. 
Ruckeyser here presents an imaginative take on this story – Icarus’ girlfriend waiting on the beach.  If the Blues had been around in ancient Greece, Icarus’ girlfriend would have sung the Blues.

Rukeyser's son Bill emailed me as follows;   "You may already know that the blues was the subject of some of her prose writing and some of her poems were written in blues style.   The best known Is "George Robinson Blues"  which is part of her Book of the Dead. She was also a friend of {blues singer} Josh White."



copyright held by William Rukeyser
He said he would be back and we’d drink wine together
He said that everything would be better than before
He said we were on the edge of a new relation
He said he would never again cringe before his father
He said he would invent full time
He said he loved me that going into me
He said was like going into the world and the sky
He said the buckles were very firm
He said the wax was the best wax
He said wait for me here on the beach
He said just don’t cry
I remember the gulls and the waves
I remember the islands going dark on the sea
I remember the girls laughing
I remember they said he only wanted to get away from me
I remember mother said inventors like poets are a trashy lot
I remember she told me that those who try out inventions are worse
 I remember that she added that women who love such are the worst of all
I have been waiting all day or perhaps longer
I would have liked to try out those wings myself
It would have been better than this