The Fall of Phaeton, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Watch Jeff Bezos Launch into Space

There is beauty in failing: the rested arch of Phaeton’s body in Ruben’s masterpiece seems to slip from his chariot as if diving into calm water, spreading like the nymphs’ tender panic, their arms outstretched to catch his body, limp with need, failure mapped on the season’s crouch. Rubens revised his painting often, erased restraints, fiddled with the size and tilt of the chariot’s upending, dissatisfied by limitations. 

Jeff Bezos travelled to space today. Below, the earth continues to burn, a silent rind, the scrim of salt where life once was. Rubens kept returning to the bold flash of light, Zeus’ vengeance haloing the crown of his head, radiant with promise—eventually we are all drawn in by the power of light, the hint that all might go awry. At the painting’s center our attention is drawn away from the deed itself, from the boy’s descent, to the prominent splendor of a white horse’s ass.

Jared Beloff is a teacher and poet who lives in Queens, NY with his wife and two daughters. You can find his work in The Westchester Review, littledeathlit, and the forthcoming issues of Contrary Magazine, Gyroscope Review and others. You can find him online at Follow him on twitter @read_instead

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