In the glow of a nightlight: a baby's finger tucked in her mouth, wadded socks, a barrette cobwebbed with fine strands.
In a house near ours six children burned to death.
My daughter's heel curves like an apple in my palm. I can wrap my fingers around her foot, feeling her bones, her breath bright birds against the winter dawn. When she wakes frost veins the pane. Smoke curls from a chimney.
I touch eyebrows, nose, feel mouth tug my breast, the burn of milk. You, small acorn, in the creases of God's palm. God folds his fingers over you. That is all.
It may be that we are the mockingbirds of the universe. No bee studies to imitate the bower bird and build postmodern hives of sticks and debris,
no bear hibernates in a tree on a platform of bent branches, exploring the experience of gorillas, no walking or crawling creature spends its life desperate to build wings; no other creature here sees a meteor streak across space and thinks— I could do that. Or watches army ants destroy everything in their path and forms ranks.
Or maybe we are this small locus of the universe watching itself, thinking itself through.
Why else would some of us study ancient stone bones our whole lives, arguing passionately over how they ran, what kind of mothers they were, how anything that size had sex,
much less the frozen moons of far distant planets where nothing will ever buy or sell us anything;
why else the Sistine Chapel, or Guernica, why else poems, why else prayers, why else words at all?
Here in the prison yard there is a thrush which sings beautifully in the morning, and now in the evening too. —Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Saws are grinding in the morning sunlight— a compact tractor in Paradise's green.
Noise rushes inside the ear's small shell, and out again. The bees swim in it. The petals on
the neighbor's tree drop into its vibrant flow and are pulled away. The sunlight stays.
I write to you such things because they are and because, in a car with a broken radio,
you hear something. Like a mountaintop and like the sea, your silent car—but better than each,
less traveling. A marked absence of song. Gone the ringing saws, the meanness of mind.
Time for the cantata you would like to sing.
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).