Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Living with Illness

By Rafael Campo

One knits, another reads a magazine,
and if they’re anything, they’re patient as
they wait. What narratives they’ll share I can’t
imagine; all I know is that they’ll need
advice, a new prescription, someone to
sit quietly for just a moment while
they cry. It’s not their symptoms, not the noise
of jackhammers enlarging asphalt wounds
outside, it’s not their alcoholic wives,
it’s not the presidential primary
that’s won or lost today—not any of
this hurts, not even when I give a shot
in someone’s flabby, freckled arm. What does
it mean, this endless suffering?
(The US News and World Report, months old;
the knitting, maybe a misshapen sweater?)
They always come, as if they wanted to
be understood yet not explained, laid bare
as by the temporary freedom of
the flimsy paper gowns I’ve given them
to lie completely naked underneath—
examining their eyes, I wonder if
they’ve told me everything, then listen to
their hearts as if I’d never known the truth.

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