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

I. Rebirth :: Rafael Campo

Inventing panaceas late last night,

I stumbled on a formula for life.

I mixed a wine glass with a paring knife,

And ended up with blood. My blood was quite

Remarkable, and red, so red it turned

The water in the bathtub red. I knew

What I was giving up, but tell me, who

Could choose mere comfort over the return

To blissful, everlasting peace? The sphere

That I inhabit now is full of us.

We’re angels, infants, stars. We’re numinous,

And hate the weight of words. We may appear

To you, as deja vu among the frozen foods,

Or on the highway in the form of deer

You almost kill before your speeding car–

There is eternal life. Damn, is it good.

~ 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