Lucille Gang Shulklapper • The Substance of Sunlight

The silver jet perches on the runway. Oh, Icarus,
I remember you. For he has sipped sweet liqueur
and drunk the elixir of the Gods. The Captain
stands in the cockpit. I ascend the steps.
Nothing hurts as much as wanting to
be oneself. To fly. To test sunlight.

I stumble down the aisle. One attendant offers the
window seat to me. Another proffers a magazine.
I refuse them both. It is too painful to look
through windows. It is too costly to receive.

I sit on the faded sweat-smelling seat. This being
wants to ripen and yet to cling to vines; wants to age
and yet be child forgetting of its fate.

I fasten the seatbelt. My teacher said, and I quote,
"Hard work rewards itself." I tried
to be loved.

The Captain's voice comes over the loudspeaker,
"Fasten your seatbelts." The engines roar.
The plane rises, hurtling us into the sky.
Oh, Icarus, I remember you. Your father
warned you.

I keep my seatbelt fastened for the turbulence ahead.
For I did not know that love does not always labor,
that it slumbers in the laps of dreamers.

The plane falls. Passengers scream.
Dishes crash. Voices pray. The turbulence ends.
For a power, the power to heal
the edges of scorched earth. The freedom to
test sunlight.

The plane levels off. The captain expects a smooth
trip. Children expect to be loved. It is not possible
to cling to that which is dead.

The Captain's voice comes over the loudspeaker,
"Prepare to land."
I cried into the soil and my tears
disappeared, separating me from you.
Oh, Icarus, I remember you.

The silver plane drops. The wheels clunk;
yet, the plane flies down the runway. It stops.
My mind screamed and my heart listened.

Gliding down the steps, I fly.
The baggage carousel spins. Leather and fabric
suitcases spill. Yellow ribbons flutter.
People embrace. The carousel is empty. Is
there never an end to loss and grief? The need to test?

Oh, Icarus, I remember you, flying toward the
sun. Your wings melted. You dropped into
the sea. There is an island named after you.
It is the substance of sunlight.