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Medical Humanities

Holy Space

Art by Sohi Mistry

Phoebe Prioleau


You built an altar

in your Harlem one-bedroom:

San Lázaro, el viejo Lázaro

straight from Havana

with hand-painted eyes

and halo of real gold, you told me.

He stood on your mantelpiece,

a figurine flanked by dollar bills and hard candies

your offerings to the saint of healing.


From his vantage, Lázaro saw it all:

swollen pill box, tubes of cream,

sofa where you spent your days and nights,

and you wearing nightgown, yellow rosary,

hair pulled back in a tight trenza.

You'd outlived your saint by twenty years.

At 93, your limbs weren't fit

to clean apartments like before. 


In your two-language hybrid

you asked Lázaro for more.

103 would do.  That would give you time

for cards with Marta and Miguel,

prayers for your sister, a few more novelas.

Perched on the portable commode,

your only seat,

I felt in holy space.



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