Rafael Campo

August 19, 2022 Campo Rafael



Except we were in love, or so it seemed.
The refugees kept streaming past, the cops
kept shooting up the neighborhood.  Except
it seemed that we were happy, pulled the shades
and set aside our textbooks, brushed our teeth.
The honor killings went unpunished, while
we aged together, holding hands as we
succumbed to sleep.  It seemed that life was good,
except Black mothers kept on dying young.
We said our vows in church, and afterwards
it seemed that queers were harmless, even mattered.
The loved ones in our photographs gazed back
at us, or at each other, or beyond.
Except the virus struck, the pipeline burst,
the hurricane made landfall, killing thousands.
We splurged on business class, as if the wine
at thirty thousand feet could taste more sweet.
Except that they worked hard, but since their son
OD’d it seemed that it was pointless now.
The oligarchs kept stealing from the state,
the politicians blamed the poor.  Except
the lamp light glowed, and music streamed as if
the Internet was limitless and magical,
as if we knew that anything for which
we searched was certain to be found.  We watched
a baseball game on television, just
like anybody else.  It seemed like we
were normal when the garden needed watering,
while elsewhere, in the desert someone was
interrogated, beaten, kidnapped, raped.
Except it didn’t happen here, but there.
Except it happened not to us, but them.
Except the sunset from our porch refused
again to be the last, so damn beautiful.

RAFAEL CAMPO teaches and practices internal medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, where he also directs the Art and Humanities Initiative’s Literature and Writing Program.  He is also the Poetry Section Editor for JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.  Author of nine highly acclaimed books, his honors and awards include a Guggenheim fellowship and a Lambda Literary.  His poetry and essays have appeared The Nation, The New Republic, The New York Times, Poetry, Scientific American and elsewhere.  He lectures widely, with recent appearances at TEDx Cambridge, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the Library of Congress. His new and selected volume of poems, Comfort Measures Only, is now available from Duke University Press.  For more information, please visit www.rafaelcampo.com.