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Poetic License: ‘Affordable Health Care Acts’

By JOE PACHECO - | Oct 13, 2020


(From the Mama Carmen Suite)

She couldn’t read or write

but was the physician of record

for most of her grandchildren:

fevers, aches and pains

all lowered and relieved

with Bay Rum alcohol rub downs,

upset stomachs soothed with fish soup

or arroz con leche;

cuts, scratches and bruises

cauterized and healed with yodo iodine

(much better than mercurochrome

which didn’t burn).

Physician Mama Carmen healed herself

with vigorous ministrations of Ben-Gay

on those parts of her body she could reach,

leaving the back and shoulders

for grandchildren to take turns massaging

and when I declared my intention

to become the first doctor in the family,

Mama Carmen bestowed upon me the honor

of ministering copas or ventosa:

I could now purge the harmful gases inside her body

that were causing her rheumatism,

by lighting a candle,

centering it firmly on a quarter with some tallow,

placing it on Mama Carmen’s back or thigh

then covering and sealing it tightly with a glass

so that the candle would burn up the oxygen,

create a partial vacuum and cause the skin

under the glass to rise

and release the painful gases.

Sighing with relief, she would then point

to another part of the body,

I would then pour off the extra tallow

into a dish, re-light the candle

and continue the procedure at the new site.

Once in a while a drop of hot wax

might singe her, draw some expletives,

and sometimes her skin reddened more than usual,

but the candle on the quarter under the glass

worked most of the time and when it did,

I could keep the quarter as my fee —

provided I shared the candy I bought

with my cousins.