I’m still looking, scanning, skipping right to the end at times, or settling for the gist on the first page, reading—more selectively across the years— but reading just the same, in the news and novels, articles and extracts, poems even . . . searching for the one, the word, the sentence that can tell me what it’s all about, why I’m here, will not be here much longer, where this morning’s golden-leaving autumn beauty comes from, why, and what it’s for, who thought this whole thing called existence up and maybe has a clue about its shape and size and possible duration. While all the time, beneath, behind, beyond the endless pages, the unrelenting streaming of the words, it unquestionably happens, keeps on happening, without any hope or need for explanation, moving on, while I stand wordless, gasping in its tumbling wake.
The bell-ringers rise and fall with the weight of their bells, holding on for dear life to the pulls, the ropes rough in their hands, the young ones lifted up, up from the belfry floor like adolescent angels treading air, as if so caught up in those peals of sound—each of them in turn answering the plea of ponderous metal— they feel like feathers in a wind.
Consecrated, cassocked, gathered for this task of intricate rhythm-ing, they learn to weave their way through the ring-patterns like pigeons to the dovecote over the cadences of distance. Even a mile away we ourselves sway like bells, snared
But the store is closed, so we don’t know what it sells. And we can’t imagine where it is the angels go at night; do they settle in trees? Or do they really make nests, and if so, what kind of bedclothes would they use, gossamer or tulle? Thin wisps, mysteries and sighs? Or this mist, the brouillard, rising from the green Garonne? Perhaps something tangible and insubstantial at the same time, like the host that melts on the tongue while remaining body and blood, bread and wine. Vive les mystères. Meanwhile, the angels are amusing themselves with games like whisper down the alley and ghost in the graveyard, as they sip just the bubbles from their flutes of champagne, and nibble delicate kisses made of meringue in the faint ethereal light of the stars.
There’s a stranger in the field of apples. Somebody’s hands have left a blush on the Staymans, have scattered half- rotten fruit in which wasps will burrow. Somebody’s presence has spun the sugar, banished bitterness from yellow cores. Pips have polished themselves like beaks of sparrows, Sweet Wines waxed tender.
Now is the time for us to climb ladders and fill a crate for our family’s pleasure. To hear the ticktock of falling fruit. To lighten the bearded branches.
Let husbands feel the round arms of their wives, and wives laugh in voices rich as custard.
Let there be shouting like shaken tambourines! Let the musician bring his fiddle!
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).