She likes to watch her children in the long grass, how they disappear, emerge, like they’re swimming in an ocean without current but the one of growing. See how the long blades part for them, how they close up all around, Watch the gold heads bob, hands reach up for the sun as if it’s the transportation of these years. Hear the silence, the safe silence. And then the muffled noise rolling through the shafts, secured forever by the wrinkled smile of her hearing. Children are nature’s people now, but her nature too, the one that says, play here, will later sigh, but how could I prevent you.
Winter dawn pinks even this dirty air, here where the currents of the world stall between mountain ranges. We awaken inhaling fumes and dust, the calls of crows, breath and prayers from around the globe.
A child in church, I knelt with the congregation, leaned into the wails of women around me pleading for the son lost to Chicago, for Hiroshimo’s victims, the girl with the iron lung. They would begin on a pitch around middle C and slowly rise with arched phrases into a high tremolo toward the amen, as though reaching to heaven.
Now the sun tears the gray veil, and doves repeat their soft, low moaning, for heaven is nearer than we think—in the undersides of leaves and in their shine, warmth on my shoulder, scent of bread. Even in that sick, black night when a man stood in the center of the lane, his arms out, pleading for the headlights to come in, as we stood beside him, now in a silent heap, his boots flung off, as we breathed “mercy,” as we breathed “help.”
Sometimes, at end of day, but not of care, Mozart or Beethoven our aural food, Her hand reaches into empty air, A tactile search for something understood; This is a nurse’s hand, a hand that heals, And yet, the reaching gives no hint of sense, No hint revealing what it is she feels, But still, incarnate eloquence. Perhaps it is within these vacancies That meaning lies. Or in the mystery Surrounding us in health, and in disease. Perhaps Alzheimer’s gives epiphany. She reaches her hand into the empty air; Who dares to say that there was nothing there?
Thanks for this window, three stories up, and the breeze in the curtains, laundered by the rain, for the unrolling leaves, green and silver.
Thanks for the red-tile roof and the clean white cornice, for the blue-gray wings in the eaves, coming, going, spread cruciform.
Thanks for the quicksilver sky caught in a bowl, for frogs in the garden, flip-flap, chitter-chatter trees,
and that one persistent whistler whose song flies out like line from a fisherman’s reel.
This is my song, too, cast out, cast out.
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).