Rafael Campo

Wilhelmina Shakespeare
October 12, 2011 Campo Rafael

Wilhelmina Shakespeare


Blond hair, blue eyes, buck teeth:  we taunted you
because of your intelligence.  You loved
to read, and secretly I envied how
you gave yourself to poetry, alone
beneath the shade a mango tree provided.
We dubbed you “Wilhelmina Shakespeare” when
we locked you in the basement, proving force
could triumph over wisdom.  “She’s a witch!”
we bellowed as we torched your diary —
but nothing we could do would make you cry.
You knew the scientific names of rocks;
you tried to teach me Spanish once, but I
responded to your questions in pig Latin.
At night, when all my other cousins watched
reruns of “Hawaii 5-0,” I’d sneak
away to spy on you.  Out on the porch,
you’d be there with your sketch pad studying
the moths that crowded the bare lightbulb, starved
for that dim light, that least illumination.
Your features softened as I gazed at you:
I understood my insignificance
as I saw it was possible to know
the beauty in even the plainest things.

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.