That’s what’s left of it— six safety pins from a chain I once wore beneath my dress to Saylor’s School and Forks Mennonite Church. Who’d suspect vanity in a girl so shy she seldom spoke? I liked how each pin clicked shut to link to the next and how they encircled me like a charm of daisies I counted round and round. Some would have said that was a sin. The same folks who’d pocket a shiny buckeye against the ache of rheumatism. I took my necklace off when I joined my life with Pete’s. I needed pins for diapers, school notes, lost buttons, loose straps— catastrophes only the quick clasp of hidden silver fixed.
If the tulip had bloomed any sooner, it would be small, I imagine, or pale. The work of green is the major thing, and what is that work but rest beneath the sun? Sure, cells scoot, bearing the sugars like good news, but the main task is reception.
You cannot say we should receive the sun all at once, instantly develop, nor call the gladiolus inferior for failing to overtake the tulip. Nature wouldn’t like it that way. To bless us is to bid us wait.
The strengths subsequent to dependence and delays reflect the feeding rays, not an egoistic show. This is why they are a sight to behold— both fragile and bold.
He was up in the choir loft, tuning his pipes of the old century’s wind-pump organ; I heard taps and bangs on metal, strange half-throated off- notes, near-notes, puffs, sighs and cough-blasts;
and then he was playing—Bach, Buxtehude, Peters— it was a young Jehovah’s making, a bright hands-full soaring over oceans of soul-light, filling the chill of the chapel with a lush of breathing. Now, in my everyday listening,
for the poem,the music, I am Mary before the ash-soft fall of the messenger, I am John after the disappearance beyond the clouds; I listen to the silence beyond the thuck and thudding of a day’s importance, to hear the hum that figures
a countryside of darkness, the sounds of April whispering over into May, the thunder of apple blossoms dropping from the tree; I listen for the tune that my days make in the works of love, in the notes’ approximations to a symphony.
My father awoke blind at age seven, casualty of a viral infection. With his sight restored six weeks later, lessons had been etched in his vision. When his children were born, he added names as rich as chocolate over cream: Joy, the eldest, was his Piggy; Laurene he called Boosie; Duckle Dunn he dubbed me.
Sometimes I thought we were as feeble as Chinese maidens, foot-bound to home, yet when he broke his ankle, he filled his days as my playmate, trimming paper dolls to please me. He didn’t intend to cripple, spent himself in ways my mother couldn’t imagine.
What later disabled his dreams, birthed his despair? Phone calls to beg orders for the oysters he peddled after his business failed? Brothers who betrayed by siphoning customers? How I learned to resent his failures: the overdue rent, unpaid bills. Only grief when he died could stir me to see.
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).