Ibn al Haytham - The First Scientist - Alhazen - Ibn al Haitham - Alhacen  


Again playable only when the ice is thin, crackable.
The object: To advance a shard
as far as possible across the surface.
The rule: One effort per piece.

At first you break free a hand-sized wedge,
dangle it from mitten-claw until
the last of the loose water drips from the edge,
then, baring your throwing hand,
wind up high, stride forward, and
release it at ice-level with a snap of the wrist.
It slides, puck-like, toward the ever-receding goal,
fighting friction all the way, spinning
to rest disappointingly.

Better to loft a plate of glass, discus-like over
the first few yards of ice.
The pose and motion together impart
a classical dignity to your play,
and the energy of impact propels
long, clear splinters in all directions.
This method not only works, but satisfies
some deeper urge—to shatter a fragile whole, perhaps,
or approximate in miniature the original
scattering of particles across featureless space.

The third approach is simple, but risky:
wing a small piece straight through the air. Risky,
because ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the wind
either catches the missile broadside
and drops it right there or
bends it iceward from the moment of release.

But one night, alone, you might partake
that single, blessed exception
that keeps the odds honest: the piece
starts off climbing and, when it turns over,
it does so gradually, like the lid of a jar,
following the atmosphere's even grade earthward,
landing flat on its crystalline belly
and riding its own granularity
tinklingly across the ice
as if it means to collide
with the distant shore.

That brief flight
and unexpected display of momentum
more than compensate for the raw stiffness of fingers,
more than justify the cold
and inestimable wait.

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Copyright © 2008 by Bradley Steffens

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