Symptoms from the Doctor

book cover Campo

Here’s a poem by American poet/physician  Raphael Campo:

What the Body Told

By Rafael Campo


Not long ago, I studied medicine.

It was terrible, what the body told.

I’d look inside another person’s mouth,

And see the desolation of the world.

I’d see his genitals and think of sin.


Because my body speaks the stranger’s language,

I’ve never understood those nods and stares.

My parents held me in their arms, and still

I think I’ve disappointed them; they care

And stare, they nod, they make their pilgrimage


To somewhere distant in my heart, they cry.

I look inside their other-person’s mouths

And see the wet interior of souls.

It’s warm and red in there—like love, with teeth.

I’ve studied medicine until I cried


All night. Through certain books, a truth unfolds.

Anatomy and physiology,

The tiny sensing organs of the tongue—

Each nameless cell contributing its needs.

It was fabulous, what the body told.





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