To Leopold Lugones :: J. L. Borges

Leaving behind the babble of the plaza, I enter the Library. I feel, almost physically, the gravitation of the books, the enveloping serenity of order, time magically desiccated and preserved. Left and right, absorbed in their shining dreams, the readers’ momentary profiles are sketched by the light of their bright officious Continue reading

The Immoralist

The following is an excerpt from Andre Gide’s preface to his novella, The Immoralist:

… I no more wanted this book to be an accusation than an apology. I refrained from passing judgment. These days the public demands an author’s moral at the end of the story. In fact, they even want him to take sides as the drama unfolds, to declare himself explicitly for Alceste or for Continue reading

VII. The Ceiling :: Rafael Campo

Beneath a handprint on a stucco ceiling,
I fucked another man. It was my first
Time making love. It all happened so fast
I didn’t even know what I was feeling.
I didn’t even realize that time
Was passing; each sweep of the ceiling fan
Lopped moments from my life. A stranger’s hand
Had left its mark, and made an urgent mime–
And ageless presence–from the white-faced room.
The silent warning told me don’t go on,
Or beckoned me to pleasures found beyond
This life. I looked to where his hard-on loomed
At me, and laid my hand across his chest.
Somehow, I felt saved. Later on, I read
The Bible while he shaved, and understood:
Against the falling heavens, I had pressed.

— Rafael Campo

II. The Doctor :: Rafael Campo

Essential hypertension, uncontrolled,
Is almost immortality. The pressure
Of blood inside the arteries I measure
With mercury, reflecting on the soul:
Both liquid and a heavy metal, trapped
And beautiful–a subtle trembling–cold.
I hate to watch my patients grow old.
I watch as blood pressures ascend, hearts stop;
A cancer dimpling a woman’s breast,
As if to pull her in, inside herself.
On certain days, I want to die myself,
Then live forever by a perfect test:
My blood shows infinite cholesterol
And nothing cures me of my needs, and I’ve
Among my bitter medicines no salve
To calm my troubled, trembling soul.

— Rafael Campo

VI. DNA, or, The Legend of My Grandfather :: Rafael Campo

A molecule that craves its own embrace
Encodes a message from my ancestors:
Survival means eternal life. Restored
As though he were alive again, my face
Seems more my grandfather’s than mine. I search
The contours of my jaws for what he’d say —
In tissue overlying bone, nucle-
Ic acids fast unzipped to base-pairs (matched
In stews primordial) give rise to cells,
Retell their ageless story. Cartilage
Is synthesized; I have no heritage
Except the mitochondria which mill
About my cytoplasm, full of sparks —
I am consumed by my autolysins
Yet constantly rebuilt by selfish genes,
Become my grandfather who killed a shark.

— Rafael Campo

Bullet in the Brain :: Tobias Wolff

Anders couldn’t get to the bank until just before it closed, so of course the line was endless and he got stuck behind two women whose loud, stupid conversation put him in a murderous temper. He was never in the best of tempers anyway, Anders — a book critic known for the weary, elegant savagery with which he dispatched almost everything he reviewed.

With the line still doubled around the rope, one of the bank tellers stuck a “POSITION CLOSED” sign in her window and walked to the back of the bank, where she leaned against a desk and began to pass the time with a man shuffling papers. The women in front of Anders broke off their conversation and watched the teller with hatred. “Oh, that’s nice,” one of them said. She turned to Anders and added, confident of his accord, “One of those little human touches that keep us coming back for more.”

Anders had conceived his own towering hatred of the teller, but he immediately turned it on the Continue reading

There Are No Words To Express :: from Goethe’s Werther

Werther, Selected Letters, 1771

May 22nd

The illusion that life is but a dream has occurred to quite a few people, and I feel the same way about it. When I see the limitations imposed on man’s powers of action and inquiry and observe how all his efficiency is aimed at nothing but the satisfaction of his needs, which in turn has but one purpose — to prolong his Continue reading