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 medicine at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. His poems have appeared recently or are forthcoming in Hudson Review, Image, New Criterion, Poetry Review (UK), Threepenny Review, and elsewhere. His new and selected poetry, Comfort Measure Only, will be published by Duke University Press in fall 2018. For more information, please visitrafaelcampo.com.