There was a time, they said, to wash disease
Away. “When angels’ wings disturb the pool,
Its waters ruffled, seize your moment! Step
Into the roiling basin, then its power
Will heal your body, mind, and soul.” Alas,
For years which mounted up to thirty-eight
The man lay, watching, struggling, straining to
Attain the waters as they stirred, alone
With none to carry him, too slow to seize
His time before another stepped into
The pool and won its healing. Thirty-eight
Frustrating, painful years, until the day
A stranger said, “Pick up your mat and walk,”
And walk with wonder and with joy he did.
One mystery of healing, so it seems
To me, is finding my due role and place
In treating my own wounds, in easing my
Own pain. For some, my body’s own resource
Suffices. Bruises on the knee, scraped skin,
Small insults I can brush aside. But when
Is my own agency required, and when
(and where) should I inquire for a pool
Like Beth-Zatha and its five porticoes?
When should I gaze for sign of angels’ wings
And strain to place my injured body in
The place where healing dwells? What hurts or pains
Surpass my power to recover? When
Must I seek aid to take the trembling steps
Into the pool? Or when must I await
The stranger’s visit, and the words, “Arise
And walk,” for even helping hands can not
Assist me to the pool in time to touch
The troubled waters and receive their balm.
O Holy One, you know the pains I bear.
You know which hurts persist, which injuries
Endure. You know where I have trusted in
My own resources foolishly. You know
Where i have sought (and missed) a fountain of
Invigorating agency. You know
Where I have lain and gazed despairing on
The troubled waters, wondering when I
Might find my turn to bathe and heal. You know
When even tender human hands will not
Avail to bring me consolation. So
Tell me, for I confess my wisdom fails.
Tell me to wait, for time will heal this hurt.
Tell me to seek for water’s ruffled power.
Tell me to strain and claim resuscitation.
Tell me to walk and bear my mat away.
O Holy One, you know. Tell me, I pray.