If I become like you I will write about a roughed grouse, Says the boy, five years old, with a face like a chipmunk Storing up winter browse. We are at his school, where he And the other small mammals have written things for me On bright scraps of paper. He hands me his paper and I’ll Carry it in my wallet the rest of my life. Mister Brian, the Sun is raining all around, another child says to me. It is up And down sun, she says. I want to be a cookie when I’m Your age, says another child. Once we were all monkeys In skirts made from the skins of trees, says a boy with an Icicle tattoo. It’s templorary, he says, explaining it to me. I laugh and he laughs and every kid there starts laughing. I think I am going to fly up gently into the air over a tree From joy, as saints used to float when gripped by ecstasy. That happened to Saint Joseph Cupertino, you remember, Seventy times, it is said, and now I know why: no gravity.
Each prairie farm holds the tale— some child saved by the rope anchoring house to barn, or legend of the scofflaw neighbor lost, not found ’til Spring, too self-assured to fix a loosened end. Stretched through utter white, that line is life.
On this plateau of shaped terrain of gentle slopes and trees we carry on without a rope. When, baffled by white of winter storm, black of moon-free night, groggy grey of sleep delayed, I happen upon the fence that brain-map etched by scores of trips along this way brings me home.
Still, clambering from the drift, wet and cold, short one boot, I long for a sure connection
I see him, mariner Jesus, walking on corrupted waters of the Danube while down in silted depths lurk the unexploded bombs of lately wars; I walk out, hand in hand with the poem, crossing on the high redemption bridge, to earth corrupted by tar and concrete, where down in the darkly shiftless soil words crawl, eyeless and eager. Between sleep and day, light and black, I grow conscious of compelling truths— but something in the ego-wassailing of flesh compels me back to comfort, and something in the slippery eel-mud of the mind eases towards sleep, though always Jesus plods on over all the corrupted waters heading for the unforgiving hill, for his piercing cry of forgiveness out-into-the-outraged world.
The first resplendent and holy, flourishing over waters, trees with fulsome fruit, witherless leaves, psaltery furrowing the land, a covenant of light and mist; no want; creation swelling, begetting in the shadow of white-clifted wings.
In the second, sin sprouted rocks and spurs; acorns detonate like grenades; mandrakes scream bloodroots and tribulation; serpents untangle from dead boughs, sunlight shriveled up everywhere.
The third the garden within tending memories of rockroses, fallen pomegranates and sallow sunsets; olive trees weeping in the wilderness blood-seared thorns and stargazer lilies pressed into a crown; God calling us back to paradise.
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).