Is There No Balm In Gilead? by Gonzalinho da Costa

“You’re allergic to coffee,” the specialist says.

I had been wondering about those skin rashes—roseate, swollen, itchy.
I thought I had been bitten by a tarantula.

Blister clusters filled with aqueous liquid,
They popped painfully.

Morbidly, I had imagined I was leprous, beseeching
St. Damien of Molokai to deliver me.

“Take this pill after breakfast, this one twice a day.” He adds,
“Apply this cream after your bath.”

Pausing as if to ponder the fallibility of medicine,
“Come back to see me after two weeks.”

I muse that capricious Nature would be tamed
By Science, no less, methodical knife

That is as much the geyser of serendipity
Or Providence’s boon as it is purported genius.

I console myself that descending clouds
Hide blessings. Afflictions work miracles…

A broken leg is the first step of a spiritual journey…
An ambitious man turns into a holy fool…

A widow in penury transforms into a horn of plenty.
Reversals abound. A bold man serves lepers,

Is himself ravaged by leprosy—blamelessly, ostensibly.
His pustules and ulcers, like rutted soil,

Bear fruit, nourishing ears of generosity, sweet stalks
Of charity, miracles wrought by the dying.

Hapless in life, he works miracles after death…
A woman prays to the saint, her cancer vanishes.

Turning a corner sharply, a nurse, smartly pressed,
Head-to-toe white, pushes a wheelchair, smoothly gliding. Riding,

Unshaven, a befuddled old man wrapped in a moist bathrobe.
Fronting the glass doorway, his limousine pulls up, gleaming.

He rises, his back twisted, a drooping flower.
Drooling, his head bobs uncontrollably.

Pierced by unspeakable mystery, wounded, stricken bird,
I shuffle outside, sky neither gray nor blue.

Sighing, “I guess I’ll have to drink tea instead.”