This soot-dark smear across the brow, between the eyes, will lead you, if the way be clear, through all the endless winter of our year, toward an elemental table, the tears and savage hubbub of that agonizing garden, the treacherous courtyard, hilltop, nails and spear, the cry, the dark descending fear, and then another garden with a cave and such an austere emptiness will fill the rest of history with clear resounding alleluias.
It was an overcast late autumn day With a boisterous wind ripping away last leaves From already wintering trees to play A rackety childhood game we called Bank-n-Thieves.
All along our street, the wind was grabbing whole arms-full Of my banked leaves, and sailing away too far to be seen By these old eyes of one who already feels the awful pull Of nature that leaves nothing young and green.
Oh yes, the trees will leaf out again, or keep their odds— Some die—but seasons now revive the ancient myth Of something clearly awry among the gods In Paradise, as we must deal with
Out-of-season subzero ice and snow So that instead of sweaters we wear insulated coats; And if it be my fate that I should go Where they still separate sheep from goats
I’ll hope to be a woolly one who will remain In a gentle zone of temperate cool Regardless of the weather, until we perhaps regain Some hope that seasonal sanity is again the rule.
For now in my own winter, the dark whisper seems Often at my ear, insisting that I should keep Preparing for the journey I mostly sense in dreams, While I remain the weary child fighting sleep.
Michael Izbicki grew up in a nondenominational church in California. A National Merit Scholarship finalist, he chose to go to the U.S. Naval Academy out of a sense of duty to his country during a time of war. At the naval academy he began to doubt whether the career to which he had committed himself could be squared with the tenets of just war doctrine. He got in trouble when he responded no to this exam question: "If given the order, would you launch a missile carrying a nuclear warhead?" After a four-year legal battle, the navy discharged him as a conscientious objector. Izbicki may have to reimburse the service for part or all of his education (New York Times, February 22).