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Tuesday, November 17, 2009


by Mary Krane Derr

For Felix Fritz Pytel (2001-2007)

The No Child Left Behind Act slips in a mandate, for this time of Vietnam-plus, of four and five traumas of redeployment, for schools to fork over the contact info of all students to military recruiters, they know where you live now.

Felix is five, can’t walk, talk, swallow, or eat by mouth, 4-F if there ever was one. Fuh, fuh, fuh, fuh, he can almost tell you himself through his random plosives. Yet still, the mail bombards glossy brochures of such full-color youthful fun, who wouldn’t want (to die bloodily for Big Oil) to have that eternal hang gliding summer?

That order Felix, be an Army of One. But Felix, son of Father Zivildienst and Medicine, of Mother Urban Community Gardening, isn’t and won’t be an Army of Anything.

The troop he belongs to says & does, no distinction between “fit” and “unfit” to divide so a sundering of sacred life from sacred life, no matter how short or long. The troop he belongs to says & does, works 24/7 to suction his mouth and nose, maintains and fills his G-tube, salves the chapping of the drool zone around his mouth, soothes him while he poops out his pain, whatever it takes, whatever it takes, that’s our mission, take heart, take heart in the heart of God, do not leave this our child behind.

Felix never hang glides, doesn’t have the muscle tone, but his life is an eternal summer of fun sometimes. Like anyone’s left in robust peace. Even in wintertime, when he spies the red watercolor burst of amaryllis in the glass vase on the counter above his head, when he kicks and rustles in the nonlethal spreading wonderment of it.

Truth be told, they don’t know where he lives now.

Author's notes: Please learn more about the militarization of No Child Left Behind. Zivildienst: Conscientious objectors in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland can perform this community service instead of compulsory time in the military.

Mary Krane Derr is a writer, musician, multi-issue nonviolence activist, and fourth generation South Side Chicagoan. Most recently her poetry has appeared in a collection for International Day of Climate Action; Canary: Literary Journal of the Environmental Crisis, and Kritya's tribute to Polish Diaspora poets.