Madonna and Child

By Rafael Campo b. 1964 Rafael Campo
By menopause, it’s not just estrogen
my mother lacks. She’s lost her eldest son—
that’s me, the one who’s queer—the doctor who
once made her very proud. These days, I do
my own wash when I’m home, I cook for her
so she can take a break from all the chores
she now refuses to assign to me.
She sits, half-watching Ricki through her tea’s
thin steam, her squint of disapproval more
denial than it is disgust. She hears
much better than she sees—it’s easier
to keep out vision than it is to clear
the air of sounds—and yet I know it’s age
that stultifies her senses too. Enraged
because she’s lost so much, I understand
why suddenly she looks so stunned
as from the television: “. . . Bitch, she stole
my boyfriend, my own mother did! . . .” I fold
a towel noiselessly. I know she thinks
it’s garbage, sinful, crap—just as she thinks
that taking estrogen in pills is not
what God intended, no matter what
the doctors say; or that I’m gay is plain
unnatural, she can’t endure such pain.
The oven timer rings. The cookies that
I’ve baked are done. I’ll make another batch
though she won’t touch them: given up for Lent.
My mother’s love. I wonder where it went.

Rafael Campo, “Madonna and Child” from Diva, published by Duke University Press. Copyright © 1999 by Rafael Campo. Reprinted by permission of Georges Borchardt, Inc.

Source: Diva (Duke University Press, 1999)

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Poet Rafael Campo b. 1964

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries, Gender & Sexuality

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Rafael  Campo


Rafael Campo is a poet and essayist who teaches and practices internal medicine at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Campo earned a BA and MA from Amherst College and an MD from Harvard Medical School. His primary care practice serves mostly Latinos, gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered people, and people with HIV infection. Campo is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including a . . .

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SUBJECT Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries, Gender & Sexuality

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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