Why is ice slippery?
Nope, it’s not steely pressure of blade or boot
melting a little film of water to glide on.
Or the frictional screech of brakes
warming black ice beneath your smoking tires.
Most Kenyans that Wooden Woman knows
have never seen snow
or even sloshed an ice cube across their tongue.
Yet there in an African hospital
was the secret of slipping on ice.
Hospitals are not all the same.
Wooden Woman remembers this one with…
Two to a bed.
Bring your own water and food.
The almost makeshift atmosphere
spoke of turning away nothing
and no one.
Go in with one disease
you may come out with three more.
The kind of place one goes to die.
Yet Compassion lived there,
to the inability to do more.
Empathy stood as best it could, back turned
to all that that could not possibly
Wooden Woman wonders if it was
the implied blessing
of white skin and an American passport,
or her Christianity
that made the infirm
when she stopped by each bed
and asked if she might pray for them.
even the Muslim man
wanted this medicine.
Each patient closed their eyes,
a slight furrow in the brow,
as if bracing for a miracle.
Standing on the icy path of illness, they
looked to Wooden Woman as if to say,
You have such bright skates.
Put some on me,
please help me to the edge,
to the firm ground.
Wooden Woman recalls deep brown eyes,
intently searching hers after each prayer,
and the despair of, no skates,
I didn’t bring skates.
I am not that One.
Unanswered prayer. What does it mean?
You just have to pause with that.
Sometimes for a long long time.
Slipperiness has nothing to do
with changing the essential nature of ice.
No matter what the temperature,
there is a thin film of quasi-liquid water on ice,
which acts as a lubricant.
No one knows why it is there.
But it is.
A miracle—there on surface of the ice.
Perhaps prayer is just a little bump
to begin momentum forward.
And that is enough. It’s all that is offered.
“Meanwhile, little people like you and me,
if our prayers are sometimes granted,
beyond all hope and probability,
had better not draw hasty conclusions
to our own advantage. If we were stronger,
we might be less tenderly treated. If we were braver,
we might be sent, with far less help,
to defend far more desperate posts
in the great battle."
– CS Lewis