Stony Brook, New York
|San Roque. Francisco Ribalta, between circa 1600 and circa 1610. Museu de Belles Arts de València. Via Wikimedia.|
Please take your work to the next step,
St. Roch, beyond being a friendly ghost
to the lost. Bring us back from the edge.
Pour out the healing grace of your touch
at a distance, if possible. We beg you.
Believe me, the people are skeptical.
Continue making the sign of the cross
to heal us, but add Islam’s crescent,
David’s star, the mudra of compassion.
It won’t be easy for many of us
to trust the intervention of a saint.
We’ve embraced the lure of miracles
like medications and vaccines
since you did yours, but if you try,
if you open your arms to all of us
without distinction—to the frightened
and weak, the sturdy and confident,
the traumatized and sick—
the blessing might come back,
and the plague succumb.
JACK COULEHAN is an Emeritus Professor of Medicine and former Director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics at Stony Brook University. Jack’s essays, poems, and stories appear frequently in medical journals and literary magazines, and his work is widely anthologized. He is the author of seven collections of poetry, including The Talking Cure: New and Selected Poems (Plain View Press, 2020).