Titilope Sonuga

(1985 / Lagos)

Icarus - Poem by Titilope Sonuga

I once saw a man on fire
a gasoline soaked rubber tire around his neck
arms flailing like he was trying to fly

I was too young to differentiate horror from spectacle
so I asked my mother why
with all the people that surrounded him
nobody brought water

She was navigating a different kind of spectacle
in the bumper to bumper traffic before us
she said,

Shhh, don't look at it, we'll be past this soon

and I tried not to look directly at the flames licking at his skin
or the way his mouth froze open without a sound
like an unanswered question

Even now
this memory is colored by the normalcy of it
how life went on all around him
this thief
Icarus fallen amongst us

This is the way it has always been
we will shield our eyes from the flames
but my country is on fire
every corner of it a smoldering heat
a slow creeping combustion
we have flown too close to the sun
with wings made only of feather and wax

Royal Jordanian Airlines, 171
ADC Airline, 151
EAS Airlines, 148
Bellview Airlines, 117
Sosoliso Airlines, 103
Dana Airlines, 153 and counting

While greedy mouths continue to blow on embers
we will cast another prayer up to God
question him in every language we speak
ask him why us again
we will plan another memorial
another tribute song
another cautionary tale
another reminder to do better
next time

But one day even this will pass
we will forget to argue
about whether the aircraft was 22 years old
or 21 and a half
we will forget about a 3 year old girl
who will never know her mother
whole families wiped out in one swoop
the wedding that never was
our memory will betray us again
it will tell us

shhh..don't look at it, we will be past this soon

We will settle into a new normal
the hum of generators will numb us
we will remain unmoved by 4 hours of traffic
the sounds of exploding churches
will be just another Sunday morning

So when our children ask us
what it was like to fly
we will tell them it was a dangerous gamble
between the sun and the sea
and we were to afraid to swim the distance
so we chose instead to spread our faulty wings
and fly toward the fire of the sun

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, June 13, 2017

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