Lineage matters, but thirst makes greatness possible. Carried across oceans, these vines have rooted on this shore, to live always on the edge of death. The vinedresser prunes tendrils and branches lifted in supplication, rationing water so that the vines bear their fruit in deserts of constraint. Now the globed sweetness is crushed for you, the burst skin returned to the earth, feeding tomorrow. The wine in the dark oak waiting, rises at last in the cup now lifted to meet this human thirst. It sings this moment in the mouth of the living.
Like the invisible coyotes that streak through the woods to the fringes of our town, a bawling wind of voices. They’ve come too close, the village complains. Perhaps. I’ve heard the squeals of chipmunks caught in the fur-fire. People plug their ears, follow their dogs out at night. But still, I open my window to their shrill, persistent haunting, fall asleep to the blessed assurance of a pulsing, moon-ticked pack loping over the fallen leaves in the darkness, working together for some kind of good.
Our high-speed hydrofoil is late. We wait in the island’s worst places, Aeolian churches. Bartholomew, the aging patron saint, drapes his flayed skin over one arm, a sommelier or thespian. Harrowing renders us raw, unclods soil and frees a captive field. The boatman hectors lesbians, insists on learning where they swim. I’m glad you don’t understand the Italian that I barely can. There’s nowhere on this island that doesn’t turn us more against ourselves or one another— too many days in paradise for minds like ours.
The congregation of pilled sweaters gathers. The least of them my brethren, their terrible feet unpeel from comfortable shoes. They come to be healed by my father through my father who kneels before them with a bowl a monk threw on a potter’s wheel near the rocks of the Dry Salvages. Among the fusty velvet pews, timelessness collides with time incarnate in human weakness, raw skin, yellow corns. Here, among us, there are so few strong among us, so many reeking needs, such fervent despair, I long to bare my baby teeth, to lunge at the wretched. God save us from those who wish to be saved in this suburban church, its reenactment intended to puncture time while the hollow chime of tennis balls from the next door courts rings with the sacrilege of a Sunday plough.
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).