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.
Rafael Campo - 1964-
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 from twisted roots, we'd listen to our grandmothers' advice. We'd understand the moonlight's whispering. We'd exercise by making love outside, and afterwards, while thinking only of how much we'd lived in just one moment's time, forgive ourselves for wanting something more: to praise the memory of long-lost need, or not to live forever in a world made painless by our incurable joy.