Concept of green, shape of a crystal bird, Color and form locked in the synapses Even neuritic plaque cannot destroy— Although we cannot know with certainty. But by the evidence there must exist A sense of order, of a certain kind, And things appear where they have never been, In neat arrangements of a different kind. Among the lambent eggs and crystal birds, Given as gifts to a beloved one, I find green leaves torn from a growing plant, Arranged in shape, a graceful trinity: O, I am glad I did not say a word, Perhaps she thought green leaves would feed the bird.
Even in Maine’s rain and fog I catch them, often in pairs, or waiting, patient, perched on a scarcely bending twig of our aged forsythia, then working the window box petunias till the coast seems clear, while I hover, motionless, on the shadowed porch, hungry for still another glimpse of ruby throat and emerald layered coat, the delicate dip of beak in cup, the tilted head, the blur of wings, that sudden flash of movement— now-you-see-me-now-you-don’t. Whatever it may be in me— some wandered/wondered child— that makes me watch and wait, this late, the daily hours to catch their, almost holy, visitations, I’m grateful for it, mindful too of one who, every once in a long while, still hovers back there just beyond, behind the nearest edge of solitude, or prayer, or even glimpses of the tiniest of birds.
If God is your answer to every question, eternal and absolute once-and-for-all kind of answer, without a doubt, no wondering, dithering or hypothesizing, no clever juggling, struggling, pondering or agonizing no raised eyebrow or pursed lips, no tilted head with faraway gaze— just straight out, eyes glazed, one syllable, constant and unequivocal, you smiling, smiling, always smiling sweetly to every question: God; Then, all questions vanish, all questions perish, and you stand like a post from one of your fences, not even enough of you for the upright of a cross like one Jesus chose at the end, facing death, and desperately asking the ultimate question: God, where are you? and hearing nothing, resigned to silence, said, Nevertheless, I AM and died the Lamb still with his question. Now there’s an answer, God.
The girl in the pew next to me is doing her math between prayers. I peek at the certainties on her page yearning for a time I knew clearly that the sum of e to the minus x from nothing to the infinite was always and everlasting one and I could prove that everything that rises must converge.
Now the slow hardening of my brain's arteries has rubbed those crisp clear certainties until they're ragged with doubt and experience. Was the sine the one next to me over over the big one? Or the opposite? Was the answer a precise one or pi, that vague pipe dream that we've chased to 51 billion places and still don't know exactly?
I chant my beliefs and wonder what proofs I am seeking here. Add up the blessings of the world and subtract the sins and you've got what? Add up my own petty closed set of real and imaginary without limit. Can it ever exceed zero?
The mass is over and the little girl kneels in the aisle crosses herself, the sign of our shared belief in a world beyond or the mathematician's plus sign, the sign that says with a certainty: something more.
Study war no more
Mar 18, 2011
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).