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Fall 1997, Volume 14.3



Sherwin W. Howard

Sherwin W. Howard (Ph.D., U of Wisconsin, M.F.A., Yale U) is a professor of theatre at Weber State University. A former Utah Poet of the Year, his poetry has appeared in the
Centennial Edition of Utah Sings, Weber Studies, Dialogue, Ensign, Red Neck Review, and others.


The Labyrinth of Icarus


Under the open Cretian sun
the labyrinth's black stones
trap heat and air in stultifying silence
blistering the testimony of Minos' wrath

A child playing free
beside stark prison wall
I gently learned my father's chains
through glowing games of innocence

with sublime lineage
served inane kings in prudent diligence
until honor was both goal and crime
that brought him here
to dungeon of his own design

Come sing with me:
all men make prisons
within prisons


On muddy days
I clambored up damp walls
held high in drizzled rain
by father's palsied hand
to try to see the misted shore

"Can you make out the passage way?"
his voice was frightened old
"First port then starboard twice
into the rising fume
then port again"
but then his sight gave way
to the rising tune
that makes all men keep prisons
within prisons


Grey gulls swoop waves
grasp shell fish in their orange beaks
and drop them on the labyrinth
their empty calls echoing dark stone
before they swoop again
to spoil and claim their feast

It was my father
who put together first
two feathers and a twig
with bits of mud for glue
that came a gliding bird
mere child's toy
a trinket of his honored vision
and then repeated whispers told me
children naturally are born with wings
and it is only aging light of sun
that says they can not fly

So sing with me:
all men make prisons
within prisons


Grave fishers dive beneath the wave
as morning wind tugs clouds
that promise shade
but only trap earth's hungry heat
close to its empty shore

I ask you
was it ever more than father's hope
that pushed his son's first pale dream
to float above the nervous sea
following god's own chariot trace
across the blueward sky
in search of higher freedom than his father knew
rising always higher up
above the world's mundane
until familial wax and wing unheld
a startled boy
alone above the drowning swell

of course I fell
and Neptune's anxious servants
swept damaged body here again
where aging souls
still fashion dreams of flight
that soar above the prisons
within prisons


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