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  • By Mark Arvid White

The Choices of Daedalus


Near dawn he turns and clings to me,

My fingers poised on golden curls,

A thousand steps we have ascended

To this place above the sea.


Behind us, to the riven depths

The labyrinth of my vanity,

Entombed the demon of my ways,

A man-thing slain and sorrowless.


Surrounded by a cache of skulls

The parched remains of Athens’ flower,

Where Theseus in his rage repaid

Unholy child of Queen and bull.


“Father, will my wings grow tired?”

With gentling gaze I search his eyes,

Bright shadow of his mother’s love,

The only good thing I have sired.


“Your wings will match your beating heart,

For I have gleaned from living birds

Ten thousand feathers shimmering,

The gift of flight they will impart.”


“Escape from here your wings will let,

Close to my wings you must fly,

Between the heavens and the sea.

These things you must not forget.”


Yet from the prison I had forged

There comes the echo of a wail,

The souls of youth and maiden shorn

By Minotaur their bodies gorged.


“Oh gods!” I cry. “I caused their pain!”

In fear I wheel my son about,

With hands upon his waist I raise,

“For whose pride are the children slain?”


And Icarus, in dreams of flight,

With beating wings pulls from my grasp,

My breath holding, he walks on air

Towards the breaking of the light.


Mark Arvid White lives and writes in Alaska, and has had his poetry, stories, and more appear in such publications as Permafrost, Candlabrum, The First Line, Modern Haiku, and New Myths, along with many others online or in print.

8 comments

8 Comments


Bob Zisk
Bob Zisk
Jan 22

There is a lapidary excellence to this poem. It's careful diction and restrained meter are a worthy frame for its namesake, Daedalus, the clever, the crafty. (The sea into which the boy, Icarus, fell, took his name in ancient times.)

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stewart.burke
Jan 21

This is a living poem, and by that I mean I feel I inhabited it in the moment in which I read it, even though it invokes times now ancient to us. I love it.

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winestone.poet
Feb 21
Replying to

I agree, David. I love poems that touch on something from mythology.


- Shannon

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jm6783685
jm6783685
Jan 18

Two good lines in particular stand out in a poem which seems to more than adequately encapsulate the drama which it records. 'The labyrinth of my vanity' and 'The only good thing I have sired'. One is prepared to search a long way for treasures like these.

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Bob Zisk
Bob Zisk
Jan 22
Replying to

When I lived up there I would go into Anchorage to use the library. I borrowed Loebs of the tragedians and Herodotus. At that time the library allowed people in the bush to return books by mail. Books were great companions in the months of short daylight.

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