Sunday, March 30, 2014

10. SHE TELLS A STORY




A story for you. 
Wooden Woman will tell it.

Was she three? Certainly no more than four years old, 
the gangly little Kenyan girl balanced a baby on her back, 
the younger leaned in tight. Dusty legs and faces, 
each had an empty blue water bottle in hand. 

They negotiated the dry and rutted road 
barefoot 
in the unhurried and straight-backed way 
of Kenyan women. 
We, a van full of Americans, 
loud exuberance 
and rampant energy notwithstanding, 
were playfully joining arms and photographing each other 
in celebration of fact that there was still water in the pond. 

The pond had been excavated 
to last longer through the dry season. 
Cows appeared and frolicked toward the muddy water 
where they then waded in.  

The girls had come to fill their water bottles. 

The fresh water from a well 
was more than a mile away--too far for them. 

And what do you do with that? 

You open the van and give the older girl a new bottle 
filled with fresh clean water. She, of course, opens it 
and tries to give her sister the first drink. 
It is hard because she is small 
and the baby gets water spilled down her legs 
but nothing to drink. 

Kathy takes the bottle, explaining she will help 
and then give it back.

How do I describe the way the baby 
held that first sip in her mouth? 

She looked to be tasting water for the first time. 

Carefully swallowed, she sips again and holds it, 
one big drip gently falling from her sweet lips. 

We hand the older sister a bottle all her own. 

And those two sisters are indelibly with you 
as you load back into the van and as they 
meander down toward the cows and muddy water. 
They are with you on the airplane 
and as you try to tell people what Kenya is like. 

They are there with you every time 
you open a bottle of water. 
You cannot help but try and hold 
the first sip the way that baby did. 

And here months later you wonder 
if waterborne illness has taken one of them yet. 

Or both.

You promise yourself 
that was the single best thing 
you ever did for another human being. 




*



4 comments:

Kathy said...

It really was the single best thing...I promise.

Craig and Bethany said...

*tears*

The whole universe pivots on an offering of water.

This is love.

Brian Miller said...

yeah. i could see that...and it breaks my heart...in a good way...

Larkin said...

I've come belatedly to this entry and the usual sandy shelf I inhabit gives way to a hidden drop-off, as if, in imagining I've understood "a cup of cold water" all this time, I've been wading.

Wooden Woman lived this, received it via lens and language, and offers it to us, deep and sweet as a country well. Did I know I was this thirsty?