Summer Vacation Reading

Rafael Campo

Leaving the inn, we step out into the sun 
so bright I flash back to the white ER:
surrounding vineyards neat as cornrowed hair,
exposed earth black as here deflated skin.
I almost yearn for that lost urgency,
when briefly doctors treated love as a scourge,
French novels giving way to French research,
sad Madame Bovary to HIV.
When I touched her bony arm, it was not
impossible that she would die. In fact,
she did, blood poisoned by our bumbling acts
as much as by what seemed the opposite
of this complacency. Her silent stare
still burns as she refuses our best care.

Rafael Campo teaches and practices general internal medicine at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. He is the author of The Healing Art: A Doctor’s Black Bag of Poetry, among other books of poems and essays.
Originally published:
January 1, 2007


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