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About this poet

Rafael Campo was born in Dover, New Jersey, on November 24, 1964. He attended both Amherst College and Harvard Medical School before publishing his first collection of poems, The Other Man Was Me: A Voyage to the New World, which won the National Poetry Series Open Competition in 1993.

Since then, he has published several books, including The Enemy, forthcoming from Duke University Press; Landscape with Human Figure (Duke University Press, 2002); Diva (1999), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and What the Body Told (1996), winner of a Lambda Literary Award. He is also the author of two prose collections, including The Healing Art: A Doctor's Black Bag of Poetry (W. W. Norton & Company, 2003) and The Poetry of Healing (1996), which also received a Lambda Literary Award for Memoir.

About Campo's work, the poet Mark Doty has said, "Rafael Campo's rhymes and iambs construct their music against the edgy, recognizble world his poems inhabit: the landscape of birth and of dying, sorrow and sex, shame and brave human persistence—first and last things, center stage in these large-hearted, open, deeply felt poems."

Campo is a PEN Center West Literary Award finalist and a recipient of the National Hispanic Academy of Arts and Sciences Annual Achievement Award. He recently received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Echoing Green Foundation.

He is a practicing physician at Harvard Medical School and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

The Distant Moon

Rafael Campo, 1964
   I

Admitted to the hospital again.
The second bout of pneumocystis back
In January almost killed him; then,
He'd sworn to us he'd die at home.  He baked
Us cookies, which the student wouldn't eat,
Before he left--the kitchen on 5A
Is small, but serviceable and neat.
He told me stories: Richard Gere was gay
And sleeping with a friend if his, and AIDS
Was an elaborate conspiracy
Effected by the government.  He stayed
Four months. He lost his sight to CMV.
      
   II

One day, I drew his blood, and while I did
He laughed, and said I was his girlfriend now,
His blood-brother.  "Vampire-slut," he cried,
"You'll make me live forever!" Wrinkled brows
Were all I managed in reply.  I know
I'm drowning in his blood, his purple blood.
I filled my seven tubes; the warmth was slow
To leave them, pressed inside my palm.  I'm sad
Because he doesn't see my face.  Because
I can't identify with him.  I hate
The fact that he's my age, and that across
My skin he's there, my blood-brother, my mate.
      
   III

He said I was too nice, and after all
If Jodie Foster was a lesbian,
Then doctors could be queer.  Residual
Guilts tingled down my spine.  "OK, I'm done,"
I said as I withdrew the needle from
His back, and pressed.  The CSF was clear;
I never answered him.  That spot was framed
In sterile, paper drapes.  He was so near
Death, telling him seemed pointless.  Then, he died.
Unrecognizable to anyone
But me, he left my needles deep inside
His joking heart.  An autopsy was done.
      
   IV

I'd read to him at night. His horoscope,
The New York Times, The Advocate;
Some lines by Richard Howard gave us hope.
A quiet hospital is infinite,
The polished, ice-white floors, the darkened halls
That lead to almost anywhere, to death
Or ghostly, lighted Coke machines.  I call
To him one night, at home, asleep.  His breath,
I dreamed, had filled my lungs--his lips, my lips
Had touched.  I felt as though I'd touched a shrine.
Not disrespectfully, but in some lapse
Of concentration.  In a mirror shines

The distant moon.

From The Other Man Was Me: A Voyage to the New World by Rafael Campo, published by Arte Público Press. Copyright © 1994 Rafael Campo. Used with permission.

From The Other Man Was Me: A Voyage to the New World by Rafael Campo, published by Arte Público Press. Copyright © 1994 Rafael Campo. Used with permission.

Rafael Campo

Rafael Campo

Rafael Campo was born in Dover, New Jersey, in 1964. He attended

by this poet

poem
While jogging on the treadmill at the gym,
that exercise in getting nowhere fast,
I realized we need a health pandemic.
Obesity writ large no more, Alzheimer's
forgotten, we could live carefree again.
We'd chant the painted shaman's sweaty oaths,
We'd kiss the awful relics of the saints,
we'd sip the bitter tea
poem

Arriving late, my clinic having run
past 6 again, I realize I don’t
have cancer, don’t have HIV, like them,
these students who are patients, who I lead
in writing exercises, reading poems.
For them, this isn’t academic, it’s
reality:  I ask that they describe
an object
poem
A golden age of love songs and we still
can't get it right. Does your kiss really taste
like butter cream? To me, the moon's bright face
was neither like a pizza pie nor full;
the Beguine began, but my eyelid twitched.
"No more I love you's," someone else assured
us, pouring out her heart, in love (of course)—