‘Icarus Laughed as He Fell’: How to Find Joy in the Face of Failure

Whenever I feel defeated, this poem reminds me that failure isn’t the end of everything

The Fall of Icarus

I might have gotten a little too interested in the stock market since this whole Gamestop thing started in late January. I guess I dig deeper into something I know nothing about only when it hits the Twitter trends. (I’m basic like that.) Anyway.

A while after the stock market became part of pop culture, I set up a trading account, put some money dollars on it, and promptly lost some of those money dollars. Yikes. I’d like to say I was pretty chill about the whole thing because I always knew that my capital would be at risk, but I wasn’t — losing money terrifies me. The next day I went to my first doctor's appointment in years for a check-up and she noticed something wrong with my heart — something something arrhythmia, I think. My heart was beating irregularly. Might be related to the loss of those money dollars, but also might not. I’ll never know. What I did know, though, was that I could always go back to the following poem if my heart ever started to go ballistic on me because I invested in something that didn’t come to fruition, whether that investment was money in the stock market, my time in a project, or my enthusiasm in doing something new.

Here is what they don’t tell you:

Icarus laughed as he fell.
Threw his head back and
yelled into the winds,
arms spread wide,
teeth bared to the world.

(There is a bitter triumph
in crashing when you should be
soaring.)

The wax scorched his skin,
ran blazing trails down his back,
his thighs, his ankles, his feet.
Feathers floated like prayers
past his fingers,
close enough to snatch back.
Death breathed burning kisses
against his shoulders,
where the wings joined the harness.
The sun painted everything
in shades of gold.

(There is a certain beauty
in setting the world on fire
and watching from the centre
of the flames.)

Fiona

The myth of Icarus is well-known. The kid got cocky and flew up and up and up with his new set of wings and got a little too close to the sun, and eventually, his flight was cut short. His ambition was too strong and he paid for it. A tragedy in every sense of the word. But reading Fiona’s poem helps me find a bit of joy in failure, but maybe more importantly, it makes me question the myth itself. Daedalus, the wings’ maker, only finds the remnants of his invention floating on the water, so he simply assumes that Icarus drowned. But what if he survived? What if, perhaps, failure doesn’t mean death? After all, when we fail, we tend to think it’s the end. “I’ll never come back from this,” we tell ourselves the exact moment we mess up. But what if there was an after? Fiona’s poem always makes me wonder what that after could look like.

(And hey, turns out I got back some of my money dollars and then some in the end! Icarus, I hope you’re doing well!)

English graduate student and freelance writer based in France. Words at Level, Elemental, Gen, Human Parts, etc. Email: abderemane.m.assad@gmail.com

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