“Gastroenterology,” by Rafael Campo

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“Gastroenterology,” by Rafael Campo, appeared in the Fall 2018 – Caregiving Issue of MQR.


It starts with hunger. Eating with your eyes.
What else we can consume. Digest the news.
The waiting room, abjection seen in flashes.
The heart burns. How the stomach turns at lies
the television vomits, tinged with blood.
It ends in hunger. Children smeared with feces.
We talk, the restaurant all gleaming wine glasses,
their shining faces thrillingly alive.
We say we’re starving, while it’s elsewhere god
cannot provide. Through windows, there’s a view
of transit, people going places, how it slides
along. It seems like hunger. Parasites,
I once was taught, need hosts on which to feed.
The window’s gown parts, showing where the night
aches. Here is where it hurts, where anger rises.
Last night, among the ER’s tragedies,
we had a bleeder. Quietly, she died,
her prayers staining all the draping red.
My gloved hands trembled. Afterwards, instead
of mourning her, I wondered how life passes
like that. I walked out to the parking lot.
It starts and then it ends. Somebody dies.
I stared out at the stars, felt ravenous.

Purchase MQR 57:4 or consider a one-year subscription. This poem appeared in the Fall 2018 – Caregiving Issue of MQR.


Image: Rousseau, Henri. “The Hungry Lion Throws Itself on the Antelope.” 1905. Oil on canvas. Beyeler Foundation, Riehen, Switzerland.

Rafael Campo teaches and practices internal medicine at Harvard Medical School, where he is Director of Literature and Writing Programs in the Art and Humanities Initiative. His work has appeared recently or is forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Image, The Hudson Review, The New Criterion, Poetry, The Poetry Review (UK), The Threepenny Review, and elsewhere. Duke University Press will publish his new and selected poems, Comfort Measure Only, in the fall of 2018.

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